Do woman suffer more mental
health problems than men?
quite challenging to define mental health as this term is conceptually
ambiguous. The World Health Organization gave a holistic definition, “mental
health is the state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her
own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively
and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” (WHO, 2015) The mental health problems
are complex, and occur due to wide range of factors specifically environment (WHO, 2015).
Gender Disparities & Mental Health
mental disorders are associated with the substantial burden of disability and morbidity.
The lifetime prevalence rates for all types of psychological disorders are
higher as compared to one decade before due to several factors (WHO, 2015). The
mental health problems are quite common in present sedentary and modern
lifestyle and relationships. Still, the problems are under diagnosed. Several
people still take it as a stigma and just 2 in 5 people experiencing substance
use disorder, anxiety, or mood problems seek mental health services during
their onset period (WHO, 2015). The psychiatric disorders are found in
identical manner in both men and women, but there is striking gender difference
in the mental illness pattern. The
gender differences have been found in depression, somatic complaints, and
anxiety disorders and women predominate in these areas (Altemus, Sarvaiya
& Epperson, 2014). The gender determines
control and differential power hold by males and females over their
socioeconomic mental health determinants and lives, along with their status,
social position, and treatment (Altemus
et al., 2014). The gender also reflects their exposure and susceptibility towards
specified mental health risks. Over 1
in 3 people globally including both genders suffer from severe public
mental health problem (WHO, 2015).
As per Albert
(2015), the unipolar depression is the second leading cause by 2020 for the worldwide
disability burden which is two times more common in women. The decrease in the
women overrepresentation being depressed could contribute substantially to reducing
the global burden. Altemus et al. (2014) suggested that the alcohol
dependence’s lifetime prevalence rate is two times more found in men than
women. In the developed nations, over 1 in 5 males and 1 in 12 females suffer
from alcohol dependence issue once during their lives. Moreover, men are three
times more vulnerable to antisocial personality disorder as compared to women (Altemus et al., 2014).
(2015) also reported that in terms of severe mental health problems like
bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, there is no major gender difference as it
impacts <2% of global population. The disability linked with the mental
health problems occurs most commonly on people who experience more than three co-morbid
disorders. Here, again the women population predominates (WHO, 2015).
Women more susceptible to mental illness- Facts
clinical psychologist Prof Daniel Freeman at the Oxford University analyzed
that women are 40% more probable than men to have mental health issues in
US, New Zealand, UK, Europe, and Australia (Ball, 2013). This represented that
gender disparities are wide globally. Women are 75% and 60% more prone than men
to communicate that they have recently suffered from depression and anxiety
disorder respectively. The substance misuse disorders are two and a half times
more common in males than females (Ball, 2013). The psychologist reported that
women tend to suffer more because of internal issues and sleep problems. Women take
out their issues on themselves, but men externalize the issues on environment
through anger and alcohol (Bandelow & Michaelis, 2015). Women tend to see
themselves more affected on their self-worth and self-esteem due to environment
issues and end up suffering from mental disorders (WHO, 2015).
depressive disorders count 41.9% of women disability due to neuropsychiatric
disorders in comparison to 29.3% of men (WHO, 2015). Estimated 80% of the 50
million population impacted by violent conflicts, disasters, civil wars, and
displacement were women and children. Violence against women has the lifetime
prevalence rate as 16% to 50% leading to mental trauma in women (WHO, 2015).
The pressures created due to their multiple roles, and gender discrimination
along with hunger, poverty, overwork, malnutrition, sexual abuse, and domestic
violence accounts for more severe mental health problems in women globally
(Bandelow & Michaelis, 2015). These are the reason that women as two times
more likely to suffer from PTSD with over 10% females developing this health
issue after some traumatic event as compared to 4% of men (Lalley-Chareczko,
Segal, Perlis, Nowakowski, Tal & Grandner, 2017).
Causes of mental health issues
more common in Women
50% of women experience certain form of trauma. At least 1 in 5 females
experience rape or attempted rape and 1 in 3 women reported abuse by their
domestic partner leading to severe mental health trauma (Altemus et al., 2014). It is trauma which is the key risk factor
for post-traumatic stress disorder (Altemus
et al., 2014).
Meyer, Overstreet, Haile & Hansen (2015) determines that discrimination
increases the female exposure to stress which predicts mental illness. Women do
more of home tasks, childcare, and full-time work. They work harder to attain
the credit attained by men. But, gender wage gap, sexual workplace harassment,
and workplace discrimination pose stressful challenges and conspire tearing
down their self-esteem and coping skills (Calabrese et al., 2015).
(2016) illustrated that hormonal differences between males and females play a
critical role in mental health problems. Females produce lesser serotonin as
compared to men plausibly because of hormonal level differences. The deficiency
of serotonin implicates several mental health problems notably anxiety and
experience intense physiological changes during childbirth and pregnancy.
Approximately 41% of females suffer from certain type of postpartum depression
due to physiological shifts (Bandelow & Michaelis, 2015). Contrastingly, Calabrese
et al. (2015) reported that women are overwhelmed by the parenting demands
during early days. The lack of partner’s support, poverty issues, traumatic
births, and higher stress because of pregnancy complications substantially
result in postpartum depression.
differences in the hormone fluctuations and brain chemistry contribute to
anxiety disorder which is more common in females (Remes, 2016). The hormonal
changes result in several changes in the reproductive events all across the
woman’s life that are associated with anxiety. Remes (016) stated that
progesterone and oestrogen surge during pregnancy is capable to raise the
obsessive compulsive disorder risk. This is characterized by obsessions,
repetitive thoughts, disturbed thoughts, and impulses which are debilitating
and distressing. The biological
mechanisms are also different in both the genders. Women are more prone towards
stress increasing anxiety (Bandelow & Michaelis, 2015). When stressful
situations occur, women have different coping strategies as compared to men.
The life stressors in women make them ruminate themselves which increase
anxiety. But, men engage more in problem-focused and active coping (Calabrese
et al., 2015).
et al. (2017) demonstrated that social and economic policies which result in
sudden, sever, and disruptive changes to employment, income, and social capital
which are uncontrollable or unavoidable. This significantly raises the gender
inequality as well as the prevalence of the common mental disorders.
Good social support leads to lower psychological
support is a social capital which is defined by multiple structural aspects of
one’s relationships like ties and group memberships & explicit functions
like instrumental help, and emotional support (Van Droogenbroeck, Spruyt &
Keppens, 2018). The social support serves as the major protective factors for
better mental health in both men and women. The positive relationships serve
like a buffer towards negative environmental influences. According to Lalley-Chareczko
et al. (2017), there are two broad types of supportive behaviors. First is the
emotional sustenance which gets demonstrated as valuing, caring, and
understanding from others. Second is the active coping assistance which relates
towards the supporters providing good advice or applying the emotion-focused
and problem-focused coping strategies to be used by one (Lalley-Chareczko et
al., 2017). Women need more of social support as compared to men due to their
multiple roles in life where they undergo several duties at one go and need to
maintain their professional life with family responsibilities as suggested by Van
Droogenbroeck et al. (2018).
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psychiatry & neuroscience: JPN, 40(4), 219.
M., Sarvaiya, N., & Epperson, C. N. (2014). Sex differences in anxiety and
depression clinical perspectives. Frontiers in neuroendocrinology, 35(3),
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finds. Available at-
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century. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 17(3),
S. K., Meyer, I. H., Overstreet, N. M., Haile, R., & Hansen, N. B. (2015).
Exploring discrimination and mental health disparities faced by Black sexual
minority women using a minority stress framework. Psychology of women
quarterly, 39(3), 287-304.
L., Segal, A., Perlis, M. L., Nowakowski, S., Tal, J. Z., & Grandner, M. A.
(2017). Sleep disturbance partially mediates the relationship between intimate partner
violence and physical/mental health in women and men. Journal of
interpersonal violence, 32(16), 2471-2495.
Olivia. (2016). Women are far more anxious than men – here’s the science. The
Conversation. Available at- https://theconversation.com/women-are-far-more-anxious-than-men-heres-the-science-60458
Droogenbroeck, F., Spruyt, B., & Keppens, G. (2018). Gender differences in
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(2015). Gender and women's mental health. Available at- http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/