Initial results from an animal study conducted by researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia may shed some light on a question that has perplexed both sexes: why do women often seem to get so much more stressed out than men? In a rat study led by neuroscientist Dr. Rita Valentino, researchers found that females were more sensitive to the stress-related hormone known as corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), the Telegraph reports. Valentino and colleagues suggest that the findings could potentially have relevance for humans, as CRF is known to play a role in our experience of stress and lack of effective CRF regulation is often characteristic of stress-related mental disorders.
The study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, found that when female rats were placed into a stressful situation — they were forced to swim — they showed greater sensitivity to CRF. Male rats, in contrast, reacted to a surge of the hormone by regulating their response to it. Ultimately, females were twice as susceptible to stress compared with males.
As the Telegraph points out, women are more frequently diagnosed with depression, anxiety and other stress-related conditions, but the underlying causes for this gender difference are unclear. If future research in humans discovers a similar gender discrepancy in sensitivity to CRF, it could not only help explain day-to-day differences between the sexes, but potentially offer insight into the causes of certain stress-related disorders in men and women — and even, eventually, gender-specific methods for treatment.
Read the full Telegraph story here.