Estrogen May Increase Stress, Mental Illness in Women
According to a recent study by YaleUniversity, higher levels of estrogenmay enhance feelings of stress, therebymaking women more susceptible todepression, posttraumatic stress disorder,and other mental illnesses. Researchersexposed male and female rats to various stressorsand then tested their abilities to complete ashort-term memory task. Without stress, both themale and female rats performed at the same level.After being exposed to high levels of stress, bothgenders had difficulty performing the task.
After moderate levels of stress, however, thefemale rats were impaired while the male ratswere not. The researchers were also able to showthat the female rats only showed this impairmentwhile in a high-estrogen phase. These findingssupport the higher incidence of depression inwomen than in men. They may also explain whythe prevalence of depression begins in women?spubescent years and declines in postmenopausalyears. (The findings were published in MolecularPsychiatry, March 2004.)