Introduction: The major stressors associated with the COVID‐19 pandemic provide an opportunity to understand the extent to which protective factors against depression may exhibit gender‐specificity.
Method: This study examined responses from multiple waves of a 50 states non‐ probability internet survey conducted between May 2020 and January 2021. Participants completed the PHQ‐9 as a measure of depression, as well as items characterizing social supports. We used logistic regression models with population reweighting to examine association between absence of even mild depressive symptoms and sociodemographic features and social supports, with interaction terms and stratification used to investigate sex‐specificity.
Results: Among 73,917 survey respondents, 31,199 (42.2%) reported absence of mild or greater depression—11,011/23,682 males (46.5%) and 20,188/50,235 (40.2%) females. In a regression model, features associated with greater likelihood of depression‐resistance included at least weekly attendance of religious services (odds ratio [OR]: 1.10, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.04–1.16) and greater trust in others (OR: 1.04 for a 2‐unit increase, 95% CI: 1.02–1.06), along with level of social support measured as number of social ties available who could provide care (OR: 1.05, 95% CI: 1.02–1.07), talk to them (OR: 1.10, 95% CI: 1.07–1.12), and help with employment (OR: 1.06, 95% CI: 1.04–1.08). The first two features showed significant interaction with gender (p < .0001), with markedly greater protective effects among women.
Conclusion: Aspects of social support are associated with diminished risk of major depressive symptoms, with greater effects of religious service attendance and trust in others observed among women than men.