“Gender differences occur particularly in the rates of common mental disorders – depression, anxiety, and somatic complaints. These disorders, in which women predominate, affect approximately 1 in 3 people in the community and constitute a serious public health problem” World Health Organization (WHO)
I was raised by a single mother in the 1980s. Although my mom had an associate degree and worked full-time, we still lived in poverty. I remember going without basic needs such as food and clothing. My mom did everything in her power to give us the best life but she was fighting a battle against society who do not value working women. My mother made about half of what a man with the same qualifications would make and she suffered bullying from her male boss.
Before medications were readily available, my mom who had been abused as a child suffered periods of depression and did eventually receive counseling services. Because she had three kids to feed she refused to leave a job that was abusive. My mom was an amazing woman.
I am also a single mom without any help. Unlike my mom, I don’t have family support either, but I have many protective factors such as a college degree, therapy, and a well-paying job. It is because of my mom’s immense example of what a woman can be that I am the woman I am today. This International Women’s Day I am discovering the truth about the neglected state of women’s mental health worldwide. This post is dedicated to my deceased mother who never gave up in giving us a better life.
Women’s Mental Health Facts
- Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% among men.
- Leading mental health problems of the older adults are depression, organic brain syndromes, and dementias. A majority are women.
- An estimated 80% of 50 million people affected by violent conflicts, civil wars, disasters, and displacement are women and children.
- Lifetime prevalence rate of violence against women ranges from 16% to 50%.
- At least one in five women suffer rape or attempted rape in their lifetime
Pressures like many roles, gender discrimination, and other factors such as poverty, hunger, malnutrition, overwork, domestic violence and sexual abuse all come together to affect women’s poor mental health across the world and in many settings. Having frequent and severe factors such as these increases the frequency and severity of women’s mental health problems.
The most common mental disorder that predominately affects women is depression. Risk factors such as gender-based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage, low income, and income inequality, low social status and rank are gender-related risk factors for mental disorders in women.
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“Unipolar depression, predicted to be the second leading cause of global disability burden by 2020, is twice as common in women” WHO
“There are no marked gender differences in the rates of severe mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder that affect less than 2% of the population.” WHO
- Doctors are more likely to diagnose depression in women compared with men,
Female gender is a significant predictor of being prescribed mood-altering psychotropic drugs
- Gender stereotypes regarding proneness to emotional problems in women and alcohol problems in men, appear to reinforce social stigma and constrain help-seeking along stereotypical lines. They are a barrier to the accurate identification and treatment of psychological disorder.
“The disability associated with mental illness falls most heavily on those who experience three or more comorbid disorders. Again, women predominate.” (WHO)
There are 3 protective factors against the development of mental disorders including depression. These are:
- having sufficient autonomy to exercise some control in response to severe events.
- access to some material resources that allow the possibility of making choices in the face of severe events.
- psychological support from family, friends, or health providers is powerfully protective.
We have a long way to go in gender equality. You and I continue to fight for gender equality worldwide to protect women’s mental health as well.
How has being a woman in this world affected your mental health?
Thank you for reading my blog. Learn more about depression here. Leave a comment, question, or prayer request below. I love hearing from you.