Monday – Women’s Mental Health

Mental health is important to everyone – so why focus on women?

There are many mental health issues unique to women for example relating to reproductive health like postnatal depression, perimenopausal depression, and effects of hormonal contraception. Other mental health problems affect everyone, however economical, social, political and environmental factors can lead to gender inequalities, negative life experiences and gender expectations that influence women’s mental health and access to healthcare.

While women may share many health concerns with men, women are more often to be primary caregivers in families and experience stress, depression and anxiety in balancing multiple roles of mother, employee, partner, student, carer for parents, carer for a person with a disability, etc., and therefore have different health-care needs.

Women are also socialised to express feelings differently to men, and this could lead to different presentation of mental health issues compared to men. For example, women are more likely than men to experience depression and anxiety and with similar risk factors women are more likely than men to develop eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

When it comes to other mental disorders such as schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, there is no difference in rates to men, however, the experience and course of the illness can be influenced by the sex of the individual.

Key facts

  • Mental disorders represent the leading cause of disability and the highest burden of non-fatal illnesses for women in Australia.
  • One in three women in Australia experience depression, and one in five women in Australia experience anxiety in their lifetime.
  • 15 per cent of women in Australia have experienced eating disorders in their lifetime.
  • Females record higher rates of self-harm and attempted suicides than males across all ages groups between 10-64 years.
  • One in five mothers of children aged 24 months and under are diagnosed with depression, of which more than half reported to be diagnosed with perinatal depression.

For more information about mental health factors affecting women:

Beyondblue

Jean Hailes

The Lancet