International Women's Day: Mental Health

One in eight men are affected by a mental health problem. 

For women, it's one in five.

At this point, we know that all of us as beings have mental health. But what exactly causes the disparity between men and women? Is it genetics or the environment or social stigma? 

Before I present to you my research, let me preface this article by saying that countless of macro and micro factors affect both gender and mental health separately. Examples of these are psychosocial (personality, coping mechanisms), cultural, social, and economic factors. 

This one's a little long, but bear with me here – it's important. Here's a brief summary on the gender studies that have been done on mental health:
In adolescence, girls have a higher prevalence of eating disorders. 

This, unfortunately, does not negate the fact that males too suffer from depression and eating disorders. Studies [1] [2] have shown that adolescent girls are at a higher risk of eating disorders and suicide ideation. Additionally, the side effects of eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia are depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and OCD – all of which more common in women and are detrimental mental illnesses [3]

A woman's role in life often has a higher risk of crises.

While both genders experience stressful life events, women are at a higher risk of suffering from crises  due to a woman's role in life as a mother and a woman in general. Studies [4] have shown that women have a higher risk of experience crises only when it comes to children, housing, and reproduction.

An example would be childbirth and the process of recovery; which doesn't only include the healing of their physical organs but the healing of their mental state [5] [6]. Oftentimes, women are prone to postnatal depression, a severe side effect and mental illness that doesn't get talked about enough. Studies [7] have also shown that it's tedious for women to get professional help for postnatal depression, which affects women's relationships, functional status, and her ability to care for her infant [7] [8].
Women tend to ruminate more than men.

According to Healthline, rumination is the process of continuously thinking about the same thoughts, which tend to be sad or dark. Studies [9] show that women ruminate more, thus allowing researchers to conclude that there is a higher association between females and depression.

Additionally, women tend to act inward as opposed to men, who tend to act outward. This refers to suppression [10] women are used to when it comes to emotions, a habit that leads to anxiety disorders – such as panic disorders, OCD, post-traumatic disorders, social phobia, and generalised anxiety disorder. Women are also more likely to develop PTSD after trauma, and are believed to have more persistent symptom[11].

Why am I telling you all this, you might wonder.

There is a need to identify and understand these mental illnesses, then work together as a community to increase the accessibility we have to help. We need to normalise the uncomfortable and we need to collectively understand that vulnerability is not a weakness. 

A mental illness is as grave as a physical illness – even I myself am having trouble convincing my loved ones the importance of mental wellness. 

There's only hope that we can shed more light on what others need to hear, what we can know to change. 

Til' next time.



Afifi, M. Gender differences in mental health. Singapore Med J 2007;48(5):385-391

[1] Hawton K, Rodham K, Evans E, Weatherall R. Deliberate self harm in adolescents: self report survey in schools in England. BMJ 2002; 23:1207-11
[2] Parker G, Roy K. Adolescent depression: a review. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2001;35:572-80
[3] Rubenstein CS, Pigott TA, L'Heureux F, Hill JL, Murphy DL. A preliminary investigation of the lifetime prevalence of anorexia and bulimia nervosa in patients with obsessive compulsive disorder. J Clinic Psychiatry 1992; 53:309-14
[4] Nazroo JY. Exploring gender difference in depression. Psychiatric Times 2001; Vol. XVIII, Issue 3.
[5] McGovern P, Dowd B, Gjerdingen D, et al. Postpartum health of employed mothers 5 weeks after childbirth. Ann Fam Med 2006;4:159-67.
[6] Gjerdingen DK, Chaloner KM. The relationship of women’s postpartum mental health to employment, childbirth, and social support. J Fam Pract 1994; 38:465-72. 
[7] Logsdon MC, Wisner K, Billings DM, Shanahan B. Raising the awareness of primary care providers about postpartum depression. Issues Ment Health Nurs 2006; 27:59-73.
[8]  Moses-Kolko EL, Roth EK. Antepartum and postpartum depression: healthy mom, healthy baby. J Am Med Women’s Assoc 2004; 59:181-91.
[9] Goodwin RD, Gotlib IH. Gender differences in depression: the role of personality factors. Psychiatry Res 2004; 126:135-42.
[10] Robichaud M, Dugas MJ, Conway M. Gender differences in worry and associated cognitive-behavioral variables. J Anxiety Disord 2003; 17:501-16.
[11] American Medical Association Council on Scientifi c Affairs. Women’s Health: Sex- and Gender-based Differences in Health and Disease (I-00). Available at:

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