Readers react to depression in boys and clever ants

Diagnosing depression

Traditional screening tools for depression focus on internalizing symptoms, including feelings of hopelessness and sadness. Such surveys may miss depression in boys and men, which more often manifests externally as anger and aggression, irritability and risk-taking, Sujata Gupta reported in “The boys are not OK” (SN: 7/1/23, p. 18).

The Male Depression Risk Scale screens for these and other signs of depression, Gupta reported. In a 2020 study, 11 percent of 1,000 Canadian men met the depression criteria on this scale but not on more traditional scales. Reader Tom Harrison asked if standard scales could also miss depression in girls and women.

In short, yes, Gupta says. “When the Male Depression Risk Scale was developed, researchers included male and female participants. That revealed that some women also reported high irritability and anger, two emotions associated with externalizing behavior, though at a lower rate than men,” she says.

Irritability is also a feature of depression among children and adolescents, regardless of gender. That would suggest standard surveys may also miss depression in some subset of girls, Gupta says.

Remarkable ants

In Tunisia’s flat salt pans, desert ants c­reate towering anthills to help foragers find their way home, Soumya Sagar reported in “These desert ants head for the hills” (SN: 7/1/23, p. 16).

Reader Jim Schrempp is fascinated by ants. “Years back, I traced the extent of an ant ‘highway’ in the street near my home. Each evening, this trail of ants would disappear, only to reappear the next day. I found that they were traveling about a quarter mile between two nests,” Schrempp wrote. “From their low perspective, the ants must have explored what they think is a gigantic area. It led me to realize that an ant trail on the other side of our village could actually be populated with ants from my street!”