Women and Depression

Depression is currently the fourth most common cause of disability worldwide (Culbertson, 1997). With depression being such a large issue in society, it cannot be looked at as a “one size fits all,” particularly when it comes to examining gender differences associated with mental health disorders (Smith and Jaffe, 2012). There are many social causes prevalent in society, varying by gender, which contributes to the risk of being diagnosed with depression or the rate to which they experience depression.
Depression is the leading cause for disability in women and they are roughly twice as likely to experience depression as men. Some reasons for this may be that women tend to dwell on their problems, they experience victimization and they also must deal with the effects that estrogen has on the stress hormone and menstrual cycle. Men’s experiences with depression have not been as well understood as women’s. Although women may be diagnosed more then men, it does not mean that men suffer any less; they often suffer in silence.
With the social constructions of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman, it has created an atmosphere in which it negatively affects the willingness to seek help or treatment and the diagnosis of mental illnesses relating to health and health care. There is evidence to suggest that men are just as vulnerable as women to depression and for the same reasons that make women depressed but they remain undiagnosed and untreated (Zartaloudi, 2011). Men on average are less willing to seek help but are more reluctant to seek help in the case of depression.

There are a larger number of men compared to women who suffer from problems closely related to depression such as alcohol and drug abuse and the suicide rates in men are very high. According to Real, “women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men because many health professionals, as well as family members and friends, may find it easier to diagnose women with depression more than men because of the fear of the stigma and shame surrounding depression for men, a disorder which is regarded as emotional and not a manly illness. (Real, 1997) So in society it is hard to diagnose depression in men because they have a harder time admitting that they have it. With that being said, the social roles that we have created for both men and women create the need for different treatment options and care that will ultimately lead to the same result; successfully treating depression. The social conditions of life and the differences that are presented for individuals create different health care needs for everyone. The health care system often fails to address these differences and in doing so, it can often reinforce the inequalities (Payne & Doyal, 2010).
It is important to recognize the different social processes present in society if the health care system is going to respond to the needs of individuals. Men are known to use health care services less than women, which can relate to men’s shorter life expectancies. So this leads to the problem of men not wanting to seek health care, as they want to look masculine and adhere to the gender role that society has created. These generalizations can be very harmful to both men and women as they can often affect the action one may take.
For example, men also tend to wait longer to seek health care, as they do not use the services as much as women (Payne & Doyal, 2010). So in the case of depression, if men tend to wait longer, it could lead to alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide. One is held accountable for every action they perform to be appropriate to the sex category they adhere to. Because the rate of depression is about two times greater for women than men, depression can often be framed as a ‘women’s issue’ and therefore men do not want to admit to being depressed.
Women also react differently as they are more likely to change their appetite, become emotional and lose weight where as men tend to turn to alcohol and drugs which can lead to further complications (Zartaloudi, 2011). Although women are more likely to attempt suicide and there are more reported cases of women attempting to kill themselves, men are reported to have a higher death rate by suicide than women. Men have a very high rate of suicide; they are about three to four times more likely to kill themselves regardless of their age.
Men are also more likely to commit suicide because they tend to act quicker on their thoughts and use more lethal methods such as guns (Mayo Clinic, 2011). Men often times will try to live up to the standards of masculinity that society has created. It has been hypothesized that men can experience a loss of psychological well-being while trying to achieve the masculine goals related to the gender roles that have been created. Men may also make themselves feel better by relying on avoidance and coping in ways such as distraction, social diversion, denial and disengagement (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1999).
Men often fail to recognize depression, not realizing that some of their symptoms are those of depression. They also down play their sign and symptoms of depression and often do not want to talk about what they are feeling where as women are more likely to seek medical help or turn to family and friends (NIMH, 2011). When looking specifically at women and depression, it can be noted that women suffer in different ways then men due to different social causes they experience.
Looking at the cultural roles and how they affect both men and women, women have always been viewed to have unequal power and wealth. With lower incomes, women are more likely to live in poverty and stress about housing and access to health care resources (Mayo Clinic, 2010). Minority women face racial discrimination as well which can lead to lower self-esteem and can contribute to feelings of depression. As well, women who were emotionally, sexually or physically abused as children are more likely to be depressed as adults.
Women are also more likely to be sexually abused (Weiss, 1999). Overall depression will continue to affect both and men and women in different ways and it is important to address this issue to ensure that both men and women are getting the correct diagnosis and treatment that is necessary. Although there are many factors that contribute to an increased risk of depression such as death, divorce, job loss or any major changes, it is important to look at social causes that affect women differently than men.
There are many specific risk factors for mental disorders that disproportionately affect women which include gender based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage, low income and income inequality, low or subordinate social status and unremitting responsibility for the care of others (WHO, 2012). The high rate of sexual violence present in our society which women are exposed and the correspondingly high rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder result in women being the largest group of people affected by depression.
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, “Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16,” (CWF, 2012). Having experienced sexual or physical violence can lead to an increased risk in experiencing depression for both men and women, although women are at a higher risk due to a higher rate of experiencing violence. Often, the social construction of gender leads to the view of women being inferior to men and so men view themselves as having control over women and can often result in physical or sexual violence.
Some often wonder if men are at the same risk for experiencing violence but the Canadian Women’s Foundation states that 83% of all police-reported cases of domestic violence are against women and that remains the same throughout every province in Canada, (CMF, 2012). It has also been reported that one in five women suffer rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, (WHO, 2012). Living with the fear of being raped or experiencing rape also contributes to the increased risk of depression among women. Women often are humiliated to share their experience with anyone and often do not disclose information unless asked directly by a doctor.
Men too are reluctant to share their experiences of violence as we have created a social stigma in which men are not to express such emotional feelings and so the violence goes unreported. Violence against women then, may contribute to the reason as to why women are the largest single group affected by depression. Another social cause of depression among both men and women but specifically women is low socioeconomic standing. The higher prevalence of depression among women can be associated with their socioeconomic position, stress processes and role of social support (Warrell, 2012).
Reports continue to show that women that live in poverty or with a love economic status show higher rates of depression than women who live in a higher economic standing. The stress of struggling economically can often times play a big role in the emotional toll it takes on a person, specifically women. A reason why women are at a higher risk of depression and suffering long-term is that they are exposed to greater amounts of stress (Warrell, 2012). Women often have responsibilities both at work and within the home as they are often stereotyped as the ‘house-wife’, responsible for most of the duties within the home.
Socioeconomic status and the struggle for women to deal with major stressors that relate contribute to the high rate of depression among women. Society has created many stereotypes around gender and how males and females should act. Men are seen as the powerful, dominant type who should have the control and the power within society. Men who show emotions and express feelings associated with the female stereotypes are often looked down upon. Women are seen as the emotional, fragile beings that are emotional and as a result are inferior to men.
Although we are working as a society to break down these stereotypes, they are still prevalent and we must find ways to cope with them. Looking specifically at depression, women often feel as though they are inferior to men and that they are unequal within society; this may contribute to feelings of depression. There are many ways for the issue of depression to be addressed. One of the most important ways for this issue to be addressed is for it to be talked about and have fewer stigmas attached to it. Many people view depression and mental illness as a negative thing and therefore much stigma comes attached to the diagnoses of depression.
Men, who already have a hard time going to get help when they need it, are even less likely to reach out for help if they will be labeled as weak and treated differently if their condition becomes public knowledge. As mentioned above, if society would take a step back and not put so much emphasis on hegemonic masculinities and make it more socially acceptable for men to show emotion and not have negative repercussions when coming to terms with their mental illness, more men would feel comfortable speaking out about their illness and hopefully actively seek treatment.
One way that this stigma is approached is how Bell Canada has created a campaign to help eliminate the stigma attached to depression and mental illness. They offer some interesting statistics that are quite troubling in regards to the problem of mental health and its funding: mental health does not receive the funding relative to the need because mental illness represents 15% of health care troubles; however, they only receive 5% of funding.
Another startling statistic provided was that only one-third of Canadians who need mental health services actually receive them. (http://letstalk. bell. ca). Another initiative that has been created to help spread awareness about mental health issues is the Canadian Population Health Initiative. This initiative has seen very positive outcomes in how mental health is treated, promoted and viewed in Canadian society. Many new initiatives and policies have been created in the past 20 years to help address the issues that are faced in the public sector of mental health.
Some of the positive changes that have been made include: The creation of the Mental Health Promotion Unit in 1995 to promote health public policy for mental health, in 1996 a new holistic definition of mental health was created to demonstrate that mental health is a “multi-faceted nature of health and moved beyond disease-oriented understandings” (Ottawa: CIHI, 2009) and in 2007 the creation of the Mental Health Commission of Canada that was to help people living with mental illness get treatment as well as promote positive mental health promotion across the nation (Ottawa: CIHI, 2009).
By the creation of these old and new initiatives and policies, there is more attention being given to the issue of mental health and a reduction of the stigma attached to it. Education is the best way to understand something and if the country is educated on the issues, they will be less likely to rely on old stereotypes to categorize people who suffer from mental illness. I believe that depression is a major issue present within society and we must find ways to break down the gender stereotypes in order for both males and females to feel comfortable talking about it.
I believe that it is important to look at how we can address this issue as women are suffering at a higher rate than men while men are suffering in silence, without help from anyone. Depression must be viewed as an illness that is okay to talk about and okay to get help for. Depression is common in society and no one is ever alone when dealing with depression and the feelings associated with it. It is scary to think that two thirds of people suffering are not receiving any help.
People suffering need not be ashamed of what they are going through and should be eager to seek the proper treatment when needed. As a society, we must break away from the gender stereotypes associated with gender and understand that depression is an illness that both men and women suffer from. We need to continue to use campaigns and initiatives to show people that they are not alone and that it is nothing to be ashamed of. Women are at a higher rate of experiencing depression as they are affected differently by social causes that are present within our society.
In recent times, we have been trying to put to rest the idea that men are superior to women as every human being should be considered equal and capable of doing the same things within society. If everyone is considered as equal, it may lead to a decrease in violence against women and people of color may not feel oppressed by other members of society. If this is possible, women’s risk of experiencing depression may decrease and it may no longer be viewed as a women’s illness.
It can be concluded that although men and women both suffer from depression and feel some of the same emotions, the way they experiencing depression differs greatly due to the social causes we see in society today. Bibliography References Canadian Institute of Health Information, Improving the Health of Canadians: Exploring Positive Mental Health (Ottawa: CIHI, 2009). Canadian Women’s Foundation, The facts about violence against women. 2012. Retrieved on November 20th, 2012 from < http://www. canadianwomen. org/facts-about-violence> Culbertson, F. (1997).
Depression and Gender; an international review. American Psychology, 25-35. K. , B. B. (2012). Diagnosis and treatment rates for depression in older adults have grown overtime, with medication edging out therapy. AHRQ Research Activities, (379), 21-22. Logan, J. , Skopp, N. A. , Karch, D. , Reger, M. A. , & Gahm, G. A. (2012). Characteristics of Suicides Among US Army Active Duty Personnel in 17 US States From 2005 to 2007. American Journal Of Public Health, 102S40-4. doi:10. 2105/AJPH. 2011. 300481 Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap.
Mayo Foundation for medical Education and Research, 1-3. Nolen-Hoeksema, S. , Larson, J. , Grayson, C. (1999). Explaining the gender difference in depressive symptoms. Social Psychology. 77(5): 1061-72. Payne, S. , & Doyal, L. (2010). Re-visiting gender justice in health and health care. In E. Kuhlman, and E. Annadale (Eds. ), The Palgrave handbook of gender and healthcare (pp. 21-35). Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan. Smith, M. , & Jaffe, J. (2012). Depression in Women: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment. The Help Guide. Waller, E. 2012) Socioeconomic Position and Major Mental Disorders. Oxford University Press. Retrieved on November 19th, 2012 from: < http://epirev. oxfordjournals. org/content/26/1/53. full> Weiss et Al. (1999). Childhood sexual abuse as a risk factor for depression in women. American Psychiatry, 816-28. World Health Organization, Mental Health: Gender and women’s mental health. 2012. Retrieved on November 20th, 2012 from: < http://www. who. int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/> Zartaloudi, A. (2011). What is men’s experience of depression? Health Science Journal, 182-187.

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