A study has found male and female brains react differently to negative stimuli

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One in four people suffer from a mental illness in the UK at some point in their life, including anxiety and depression. It goes without saying that both men and women are affected by mental health problems, but do they always feel the effects in the same way?

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge, men and women actually react differently to depression, which in turn suggests separate treatments may be needed.

Research shows that depression affects more women than men, but that man are more likely to react to it in the most extreme ways.

The research, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, studied how male and female brains of depressed teenagers and young adults responded to negative stimuli. They conducted brain scans on 82 female and 24 male patients suffering from depression, and then 24 healthy women and 10 healthy men. At the same time as flashing images at the participants, including ones that were sad, happy and neutral, they recorded scans of their brains.

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The differences found between the sexes:

1. Depression affects brain activity differently between males and females, in areas such as the supramarginal gyrus and posterior cingulate. For example, men were found to have higher activity in the supermarginal gyrus in response to negative words, and lower activity with positive words compared with women.

2. Research suggests that depression is more common in women due to body image issues, hormone changes and genetics. Previous studies have shown that females have a greater likelihood of inheriting depression.

3. Females are more prone to negative thinking styles than males. They reflect on negative things in their lives more often.

4. By 15-years-old, girls are twice as likely to have serious depression compared to males of the same age. However men and boys are more likely to turn to substance abuse or take their own lives than girls.

5. "Men are more liable to suffer from persistent depression, whereas in women depression tends to be more episodic," University of Cambridge researcher Jie-Yu Chuang told Mail Online.

Mr Chuang said the findings show that sex-specific treatment and prevention strategies should be seen as a possibility for adolescent sufferers of depression.

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