Is the Gender Wage Gap Linked to Depression or Anxiety?

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Are you a woman who makes less money than your husband or partner? Are you depressed because the wage disparity between genders seems unfair? A new study suggests the wage gap between men and women in America could be one reason why women have a higher level of depression.

The Study:

Women who earn a lower income than a man with similar levels of education and experience, were 2.5 times more likely than men to have major depression. However, women who had incomes similar to their male peers didn’t have a greater risk of depression, the study revealed.

Dr. Jonathan Platt, Ph.D at Columbia University, states, “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.”

He further states, “The social processes that sort women into certain jobs, compensate them less than equivalent male counterparts, and create gender disparities in domestic labor have material and psychosocial consequences.”

The results of the study was published in the January 2016 issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine.

Researchers reviewed data from more than 22,000 working adults between the ages of 30 to 65 years of age. The information in the study was collected between 2001 and 2002.

Overall in the study, it was determined women were two times more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression within the past year.

In addition to finding women who earned less than men were more likely to be depressed, investigators also found these women had more than double the risk of generalized anxiety disorder.

However, when researchers again broke down the results according to earnings, they saw the gender gap was what made a difference. Women who earned less than a man were four times more likely to suffer from anxiety disorder. The risk for women who earnings were similar to their male counterparts was significantly decreased.

These findings suggest females may be more likely to put the blame on earning less on themselves, and not on gender discrimination, the study authors found.

In Closing:

Dr. Platt states, “If women internalize these negative experiences as reflective of inferior merit, rather than the result of discrimination, they may be at an increased risk for depression and anxiety disorders.”

The study’s senior author, Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University said, “Our findings suggest that policies must go beyond prohibiting overt gender discrimination, like sexual harassment.”

“It’s commonly thought that gender differences in depression and anxiety have biological roots,” stated Dr. Keyes in a press release.

However, she went on to add, “these results suggest that such differences are much more socially constructed than previously thought, indicating that gender disparities in psychiatric disorder are malleable and arise from unfair treatment.”

It’s vital to remember the study wasn’t designed to prove a cause and effect relationship between income disparity and mental illness, just to find an association.


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