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July 2004 Issue

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Women's Health Study Probes Depression

Published July 2004

With women twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, researchers continue to ask why they are so vulnerable and seek new medications to treat the widespread problem.

Researchers at the UC Medical Center Women's Health Research Program, one of few groups in the country that focus on causes and treatments of disorders that predominately affect women, are investigating a new medication that shows promise in alleviating the effects of depression. Women suffering from depression are invited to participate in the study, during which they will receive free study-related medication and evaluations.

Typical symptoms of depression include feeling sad or down, losing interest in usual activities, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness, and sleeplessness or lack of energy.

Lesley M. Arnold, MD, director of the Women's Health Research Program, says although it's not certain why women are more prone to depression than men, there is some evidence of a genetic link.

Dr. Arnold, an associate professor of psychiatry, says women "may inherit a propensity to become depressed in response to stress."

There's also evidence, Dr. Arnold says, that healthy women produce less serotonin, an important neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation, than men.

"We suspect that stress depletes serotonin," Dr. Arnold says, "so if you start with lower levels, as women do, serotonin could be depleted more easily, making women more susceptible to depression."

Depression is just one of the program's research interests. Investigators are also studying fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that is much more common in women than in men. Fibromyalgia is associated with fatigue, sleep disturbance and several other symptoms.

UC's Women's Health Research Program is a national leader in fibromyalgia research and has an on-going clinical trial and a genetic study.

Women interested in participating in the depression or fibromyalgia studies are invited to call 513-558-WHRP for more information. All inquiries will be confidential.

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