Men are more likely to be diagnosed with substance abuse or antisocial disorders while women are more likely to develop anxiety or depression, according to the researchers.
These findings show the need for gender-specific prevention and treatment efforts, said the study authors, who analyzed data collected in 2001 and 2002 from 43,000 people who took part in a U.S. National Institutes of Health survey.
Differences in how women and men internalize and externalize emotions may explain gender variations in the rates of many mental health problems, the team suggested.
Women with anxiety disorders are more likely to keep their emotions inside, which can lead to withdrawal, loneliness and depression. Men are more likely to express and show their emotions, which can lead to aggressive, impulsive or coercive behavior.
The study was published in the Aug. 17 online edition of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
The researchers suggested different ways of treating women and men with mental health disorders.
“In women, treatment might focus on coping and cognitive skills to help prevent rumination [as in thinking or reflecting on something too much] from developing into clinically significant depression or anxiety,” lead author Nicholas Eaton, of the University of Minnesota, said in a journal news release.
“In men, treatment for impulsive behaviors might focus on rewarding planned actions and shaping aggressive tendencies into non-destructive behavior,” he added.