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  • Coco Zhu

Mindfull X Shield - Mental Health and Gender



Preface

My journey of advocacy started with a data analysis project. While researching online, I was asked to analyze a national dataset and bumped into the U.S. Household Pulse Survey.


After a quick t-test on the difference between males’ and females’ anxiety and depression scores over the past three years (2020 to 2023), I surprisingly found out that females have a much higher mental distress score in both measurements in comparison with males. The female population experienced about a 20% increase in their depression score than the male population, and the statistics are similar for anxiety.


But why? What causes the gender disparity in mental illness? I ended up researching online to find out the related factors.


The Statistics

It turns out mental health disparity is not at all uncommon to women and girls all over the world. Research has shown that compared to men, women are three times more likely to encounter mental health issues, and this statistic has been growing.


A study done across 73 countries discovered that this disparity is more pronounced among adolescents. Poor understanding of gender during the adolescent age of rapid physical changes causes girls to doubt their overall identity, leading to more serious mental distress. Especially during the global pandemic of COVID-19, the disparity in mental health increases even more: females are generally more impacted by the pandemic than males due to factors such as lack of decision-making power inside the household and lack of access to health care “services.”


Effects of the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light numerous societal challenges, one of which is the gender disparity in mental health. Studies have consistently shown that females are more disproportionately affected by mental health issues during these trying times. The reasons behind this gender gap are multifaceted and interconnected. Firstly, women often bear the brunt of caregiving responsibilities, whether for children, elderly family members, or sick relatives. The closure of schools and increased healthcare demands have intensified these caregiving roles, leading to heightened stress levels. Additionally, the economic fallout of the pandemic has hit industries dominated by women, exacerbating financial stress. The isolation resulting from lockdowns and social distancing measures has further strained mental health, with women typically relying on social connections for emotional support. Societal expectations and gender norms may also make women feel pressured to balance work, caregiving, and household responsibilities, amplifying stressors. It is crucial to recognize and address these gender-specific challenges to ensure comprehensive mental health support during and beyond the pandemic.


What Can We Do?

Advocating for gender equality in mental health experiences is essential to fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment. To initiate change, it is crucial to raise awareness about the unique challenges women face in the realm of mental health. This involves promoting open discussions about gender-specific stressors, such as caregiving responsibilities, societal expectations, and economic disparities. Additionally, supporting policies that acknowledge and address these challenges is paramount. Advocacy efforts should emphasize the importance of equitable access to mental health resources, ensuring that women receive appropriate and timely support. Destigmatizing mental health conversations within communities is another pivotal step, encouraging individuals to seek help without fear of judgment. By actively promoting gender-inclusive mental health initiatives, engaging in public discourse, and supporting organizations that prioritize these concerns, we can contribute to creating a more empathetic and supportive landscape for everyone, and of all genders.


Writer: Coco Zhu


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