One in three Americans struggle with mental health. Unfortunately, that rate is much higher in women. Research has shown that women are at least twice as likely as men to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders (Kadri & Alami, 2009). But, it is not just in the United States. Women are more likely to suffer from mental health issues in every corner and culture around the globe. The obvious question is WHY is women’s mental health so prevalent?
The truth is, researchers aren’t completely sure why mental illness is more common among women. Several studies have hinted that it may be connected to marital status, work, and women’s roles in society (Kadri & Alami, 2009).
Trauma is also common with half of all women experiencing trauma at some point in their lives (Young, 2015). We know that trauma can cause mental health issues and often makes symptoms worse. If you add on the challenges of gender discrimination, violence, and mistreatment of women — it is no wonder that women’s mental health issues are much higher than men. All of these factors undermine women’s ability to maintain their mental wellness (Young, 2015).
Daily Mental Health Stresses
Some women report receiving insufficient care following trauma, and report feeling as though they are to blame. Many women feel as though they don’t receive enough help at home with housework or caring for their kids. Others fear sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace, in addition to feeling underpaid compared to men. Each of these experiences can make life difficult, many women face more than one on a regular basis.
Adding to daily stress is the current Covid-19 pandemic. I’m sure like many of you, I’m not alone in feeling like I’ve taken on several different roles in addition to my “normal” slate of affairs. Teacher, technology advisor, chef, event coordinator, entertainer, boredom buster — the list is endless. As women we’re expected to juggle multiple roles daily, but now this? What gives? Seriously.
Unfortunately, these, and many other issues often lead to a substantial increase in stress for women. And stress is predictor of mental illness. According to clinical psychologist Daniel Freeman, women’s self-esteem and self-worth are a directly derived from their environment, which is often a large part of overall mental wellness (2013).
Help is Available
What should you do if you find yourself struggling? First and foremost, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Whether it’s from a friend, family member, trusted colleague or a professional, people are out there to help.
Many women beat themselves up for how they are feeling and convince themselves that they are weak or have somehow failed. This self-stigma prevents them from feeling capable of asking for help or sharing their distress. The opposite is really true. It takes strength to recognize when there’s a problem, and bravery to come forward and ask for help.
Follow basic healthy living guidelines. Fuel your body with nutritious food, get at least thirty minutes of exercise daily, and surround yourself with people, places and things that encourage positivity. Sleep is also an important factor in our overall well-being. Meditation and mindfulness exercises that help us recharge throughout the day can also help reduce stress and help us understand our emotions.
Above all, be kind to yourself. None of us know the exact science behind navigating this life, but we sure can try our best.
Ball, J. (2013, May 22). Women 40% more likely than men to develop mental illness, study finds. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/22/women-men-mental-illness-study
Kadri, N., & Alami, K. M. (2009). Contemporary topics in womens mental health: global perspectives in a changing society. New Jersey: Wiley Blackwell.
Young, J. L. (2015, April 22). Women and Mental Illness. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201504/women-and-mental-illness