Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Graduate Nursing


It is very difficult to describe the complexity and depth of depression as experienced by the individual. For those who experience depression, part of the pain of this debilitating illness is due to the inability to communicate to others what they are feeling. This is compounded by the inability of others to understand. An estimated 21 % of American women will go through an experience of major depression in their lives. A large number of these women will be in rural areas. The health of rural women has been a neglected topic. Literature specific to the rural woman's experience of depression is scarce. These women deserve particular attention because their lives are characterized by a number of conditions that can be particularly stressful. In this qualitative phenomenological study, nine rural, Midwestern women between the ages of 40 and 55 who have endured major depression were interviewed. They were asked to share their experiences of living with depression. While each of the participant's circumstances and their interpretation of the circumstances were unique, common themes were identified. The internal, or intrapersonal themes identified included: 1) women's explanations for what caused or intensified their depression: dissonance, 2) wearing blinders and concealing, 3) coping and finding purpose and hope in depression, and 4) insights or realizations acquired through depression or treatment. Contextual themes identified included: 5) lack of understanding and/or communication in the marital relationship, 6) stigmatization and ignorance: women's perceptions of other's attitudes toward depression and 7) living in a rural area: effects on depression. This description of the lived experience of depression is from the client's perspective. It will help provide advanced practice nurses and others who work with these women an enhanced understanding and insight into how depression affects women. This will help give direction in the assessment and treatment of major depression in rural women.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Depression in women
Rural women -- Mental health



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University