Mental illness is a major issue in both the health care community and society. Chances are, you know people who have either depression or anxiety, and of those people you know, it is probable that they are women. At least, that's what a new study coming out of Oxford University says. According to the results, which looked at 12 major studies done throughout the world in the last 20+ years, women are 40% more likely to develop mental illness than men as well as women being 75% more likely to report suffering from depression and 60% more likely than men to report having an anxiety disorder.
However, these results raise many questions about the ties between mental illness and gender. Is it that women are genetically pre-disposed to mental illness at a higher rate than men? According to the study, while women are more likely to report mental illness, men are 2 ½ times more likely to report substance abuse and use violence as a way of externalizing their problems. This seems to indicate that the issue isn’t just that only women have problems with healthy ways of coping, but men do too. Though it is important to recognize that there are factors besides biological influences, it is important to analyze why it is that women internalize problems whereas the results show that men externalize issues. One explanation given from the people behind the study is that “women tend to view themselves more negatively than men, and that is a vulnerability factor for many mental health problems”. So…women just have lower self-esteem? That’s it?
While there are societal pressures to become something that cannot exist on people of both genders, girls and women tend to be more negatively affected by the media. It makes sense, after all, aspiring to be like something that is unachievable would make anyone depressed. Another explanation is that women are expected to be more emotional while boys are encouraged from a younger age to be less emotional and shown glamorized images of violence. This could contribute to the ways in which boys/men vesusgirls/women handle their problems. Daniel Freeman, the professor behind this study does at least point out that, “discrepancies are greatest where the environment has the greatest role”.
One further point to take into account is that these studies rely on data from those who actually REPORT having depression and mental illness. If men are encouraged to ignore their feelings and emotions, how likely is it that they will seek out help when everything around them screams to “just get over it”? While many people feel shame surrounding mental illness, there often tends to be more pressure on men to not be weak.
Regardless of gender, depression and anxiety can be serious problems. If you are suffering from depression, remember, you are not alone.
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE