Estrogen Source of Stress

Background: Stress-related disorders such as depression occur twice as often in women than in men. The question is what accounts for this big difference between men and women?

Study: Male and female rats were exposed to different levels of stress. Their estrogen levels were also determined. Since depression is difficult to determine in rats, their ability to function was determined with a short-term memory task. It turned out that even mild levels of stress (which had no effect on male rats) affected female rats when their estrogen levels were elevated. This goes along with a previous study (reported by the same researchers last fall) in which females rats with their ovaries removed showed increased stress sensitivity only after they were given estrogen replacement.

Comments: Can these observations in rats be extrapolated to women dealing with stress and depression? Are these findings relevant to women who have been or who are taking hormone therapy?

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors,

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