Depression is about twice as common in women than in men. While biological reasons such as genetic or fluctuating hormone levels are said to be some factors, a recent study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine has suggested that discrimination at the workplace could be blamed.
The study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, led by author Jonathan Platt, looked at data from 2001 to 2002 for more than 22,500 adults, aged between 30 and 65, working in the U.S. Their findings concluded that mood disorders such as depression and anxiety were far more likely among women who were paid less than men with equal qualifications.
“Our results show that some of the gender disparities in depression and anxiety may be due to the effects of structural gender inequality in the workforce and beyond,” said Platt, a Ph.D. student in Epidemiology, in a university news release.
The study was not designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between disparity and mental health, but nonetheless found that women who were earning less than their male counterparts faced odds of diagnosed depression nearly 2.5 times higher. Women who earned less than men had over four times the risk of generalized anxiety disorder. There was, however, a far less risk for depression in women who were earning similar amounts to men, or earning more than their male counterpart, the study found.
Co-author Katherine Keyes, an assistant professor of epidemiology, said the findings highlight the need for policies to tackle the enduring U.S. pay gap and gender discrimination, like sexual harassment. “While it is commonly believed that gender differences in depression and anxiety are biologically rooted, these results suggest that such differences are much more socially constructed than previously thought, indicating that gender disparities in psychiatric disorders are malleable and arise from unfair treatment,” she said.
Why women are more susceptible to depression?
The Psychology Today points out that women may be more susceptible to depression because they are more ruminative than men, they tend to dwell on things more and internalize their feelings. Women may be more prone to stress because the pressures of running a home and family often fall on them, and twice as many women may be diagnosed with depression because they are more likely to seek professional medical help than men.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, women working in the country full time, year round are paid 79 cents against every dollar paid to men. In other words, unfair treatment at the workplace, bias and discrimination have not only material, but psychosocial consequences.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness or a behavioral issue, contact the Florida Mental Health Helpline at 866-846-5588 to speak with someone who would be happy to assist you.