By Gariane Phillips Gunter, M.D.
We have all heard the saying; Women are from Mars and Men are from Venus. Well, when it comes to our mental health we may not be from separate planets but there are differences.
• 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 elderly 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 suffers rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.
• Mental disorders following childbirth, including post-partum depression, are estimated to affect about 13% of women within a year of delivery.
• Eating Disorders are more common in women however this is a growing concern for males as well.
• Suicide is the top cause of death globally for women aged 20-59 years of age.
So why are women more at risk? Well, it is known that our genes play a role in ones susceptibility to developing a mental illness. However, environment is also a huge factor. Pressures created by women’s multiple roles, gender discrimination and associated factors of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, overwork, domestic violence and sexual abuse, combine to account for a woman's poor mental health in many cases. There is a correlation between the frequency and severity of such poor social factors and the frequency and severity of mental health problems in women. In addition, the presence or lack of support during difficult times is also a factor.
Stigma surrounding mental illness is a huge barrier that keeps both men and women from seeking help in many cases. However, even in cases where stigma is not a concern, there are still differences in the way that men and women seek help for psychological difficulties. According to the World Health Organization, women are more likely to seek assistance from their primary care physician while men may seek a specialist or use the hospital system. Also, gender stereotypes of women’s proneness to emotional problems versus men may lead health care providers in discussing symptoms with women or prescribing medication.
So whether you are from Mars, Venus or somewhere in between, women are more susceptible to certain mental illnesses, our environment plays a role and treatment options vary. So women, take the time to take care of yourselves, you are worth it! And please ask for help if you should need it.
* Stats are from the World Health Organization