It’s Time to Talk About The Differences Between Male and Female Mental Health08 Mar 2020
When I decided to write this post, my aim was to highlight the different patterns between males and females when it comes to mental health. I was going to focus on investigating the underlying biological factors at play.
According to a report on “Gender and Women’s Mental Health” by the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is twice as common in women, while men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.
It made perfect sense to me, as a registered nurse, to look into the brain and endocrine (hormonal) axes to explain these variations. But I was soon to discover, upon research, that biology didn’t provide the full answer, and that one of the main sources of the different genders’ mental health patterns is social factors.
Publications on women’s mental health show that women and men are affected disproportionately by mental illness, and that the high vulnerability of women to mental health problems can be owed to both physical as well as social factors. According to the aforementioned WHO report, disorders such as depression, anxiety, psychological distress, sexual as well as domestic violence trauma and substance use affect women to a greater extent than men across different countries and settings.
The multiple roles that women are pressured to take on, gender discrimination, in addition to factors like poverty, overwork, domestic violence and sexual abuse, combine to account for women’s poor mental health. There is also a positive relationship between the frequency and severity of these social factors and the frequency and severity of mental health problems in women.
On that premise, some key points come to light. It is not only that women’s mental health is largely overlooked, but mental illness in women is often undermined, loosely labelled as “it’s that time of the month” and blamed on things like “women’s innate fragility” or “heightened sensitivity.”
In light of the above, the real question is, if social factors play such an vital role in women’s mental health, shouldn’t we as a society be addressing these repairable components to improve women’s mental welfare, and consequently the overall societal well-being?
Stay tuned for my next article, where I will discuss some practical measures that can be implemented to increase awareness and help elevate women’s mental well-being.