8 Reasons Women Get Depressed In Their 40s

If you are in this stage of life, think deeply about which of these reasons may impact your mood.

Woman on couch with blanket Kyryk Ivan/ Shutterstock

I work with many women in their 40s.

I have discussed this age range before, but this post is specifically about why women can become depressed at this stage of life.

Let's discuss 8 of the most common variables that affect women’s mood in midlife based on what I see in my practice.

Here are 8 reasons women get depressed in their 40s:

1. Perimenopause

There are many hormonal and biological changes in a women’s 40s, due to waning fertility and age.


A decrease in estrogen means that cycles become more irregular and ovulation is often skipped.

Psychologically, a decrease in estrogen means that women are less invested in caretaking and people-pleasing, which makes sense if you understand that they need less of these traits when they are not going to be caring for young kids.

A decrease in testosterone also means that their sex drives are lower.

There is a myth that women have a biological increase in drive in their 40s. A cursory understanding of biology would disprove this (as well as, of course, the hundreds of women I see in my practice). Any aging, less fertile mammal of either sex will want to have sex less than any younger, more fertile mammal who has a better chance at procreation.


However, some women may have an increase in sex drive if they were very scared of getting pregnant throughout their lives, or were taught to be sex-negative, as these issues change with time and growth.

Also, of course, divorced women will have higher sex drives due to no monogamy-related decline, and this abates within monogamy.

RELATED: What Turning 40 Really Means For Women

2. Body image

For women who have always been considered fit and attractive, there is a very real decrease in how your metabolism works and how you are perceived when you hit your 40s.

Certainly, men like MILFs and older women, but if you used to be a head-turner in your 20s, it will likely not be the same in your 40s (examples of Sophia Loren notwithstanding).


For women who based a large part of their self-worth on their ability to be the hottest woman in the room, this can be a difficult transition.

3. Parenting regret

At this stage, many women have children who are no longer just "potential," but actual grown human beings, in elementary school through high school.

If you feel that you were not the mother you wanted to be throughout the kids’ younger years — possibly due to post-partum depression/anxiety, unresolved childhood issues, or a bad marriage — then this can lead to many parenting regrets.

This contributing variable to women’s midlife depression is much more common than men realize because women think about their kids far more than their husbands percieve overall.


4. Stay-at-home mom regrets

In midlife, people tend to introspect about their purpose in the world, which includes the choice to stay home with children.

Some women regret staying home with kids, particularly if their kids are now adolescents who are not much fun to be with, and if they think that staying home limited their financial independence and/or kept them in a bad marriage.

It is hard for perimenopausal women, who are biologically feeling much differently now, to remember the young mother stage — especially if they are currently depressed and looking back at everything as worse than it was.

And many, many women want to start or restart a career but feel that this would be difficult or impossible because of many years at home.


RELATED: Embracing The 'Invisible Woman': How I Learned To Age & Stay Sexy In A World That No Longer Finds Me 'Hot'

5. Career regrets

On the other end of the spectrum, many women feel that they spent too much time on their careers and missed staying home with little kids.

They may blame themselves or their husbands for this choice (many of these women were sole or primary breadwinners), feeling that they allowed their husbands to stay un- or under-employed to keep the peace while they missed out on years they can never get back.

Other women feel that they stayed in a career that they never loved for too long, or feel burned out on careers that involve a lot of emotional labor (teacher, therapist, nurse) and not as much pay.


6. Sadness about the children growing up

This bittersweet transition can be more difficult for women who are also Highly Sensitive, tend toward depression, or who viewed the young kids' phase as a highlight of their lives that they had always looked forward to.

While their husbands can more easily see the positives of the children’s increased independence, some women find this stage to be fraught with grief for many reasons discussed in that linked post.

7. Marriage issues

Many women look objectively at their marriages for the first time when their kids get older and their hormonal levels change.

They are no longer clouded by their desire to keep a family together if their kids will no longer be at home very soon.


Plenty of relationship issues that were pushed to the back burner during younger years start to become more and more obvious as the couple spends more alone time together when the older children pursue their own hobbies and social lives on the weekends.

Many women who subconsciously chose a husband because he would be a good parent now feel, "When is it my turn to be happy?" 

Women who were putting up with sexless marriages also feel that their 40s may be their last chance to ever be sexually and romantically fulfilled in a relationship, as they fear that by menopause and beyond, it may be too late to find this.

RELATED: 50 Depression Quotes That Capture What Being Depressed Really Feels Like


8. Family of origin issues

As parents get older and need care, many women find themselves enmeshed, with far more day-to-day contact with aging, difficult parents than they want.

More women than men take on this caretaker role of aging parents, particularly if they are stay-at-home moms.

On the other end of the spectrum, many women are very close to parents who have been a support to them, and the loss or potential loss of such parents can lead to a great deal of anxiety, sadness, and grief (anticipatory or at the point of loss).


Either way, many women look forward to their children growing more self-sufficient only to be blindsided by their parents’ loss of function, which means that they are again in a caretaker role. This can make them feel trapped and resentful, and for some, guilty about these feelings.

If you are in this stage of life, think deeply about which of these reasons may impact your mood.

Therapy can help you work through some of these issues, and many women will feel better just knowing that other women are experiencing the same issues.

If your wife is depressed at this age, send her this post and ask if any of these apply to her; if she sees that you are interested and receptive, she may be able to bring up issues with you that she otherwise would have been anxious to open up about.


And till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Midlife Can Be Hard!

RELATED: 15 Things Every Smart Woman Should Do Before She Turns 40

Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of DrPsychMom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.