Women are three times more likely to experience mental health issues than men.
You’ve heard of the gender pay gap, but what about the gender mental health gap? Recent studies reveal widening discrepancies1 between men's and women's mental health – from adolescence and beyond. When we talk about women, we are including people who were assigned female at birth or who self-identify as female, however it’s important to recognise the discrepancies in mental wellbeing can be far more extreme for those who are part of the LGBTQI+ community.2
Mental health issues are evidently experienced by all genders, however research shows that women are three times more likely to suffer from mental health issues than men and there are some specific factors that contribute to this.10 Women are grappling with higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression3 due to a complex interplay of socioeconomic disparities, societal expectations and biological differences. Employers have a crucial role to play to address this issue. This article will explore what’s driving gender mental health inequality and provide businesses with the tools they need to empower and support female employees.
Disparity in Mental Health: Unravelling the causes and consequences
The disparity in mental health between men and women is shaped by various factors. Firstly, life-stage health issues relating to women's reproductive health, for example: PCOS, endometriosis, pregnancy and baby loss, and menopause.
- PCOS affects 10% of women and can lead to anxiety and depression.4
- Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women and increases the risk of mental health disorders.5
- Miscarriage causes symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD.6
- Approximately 10% of pregnant women experience depression, rising to 15.6% in developing countries.7
For employers to support their female workforce's mental wellbeing, they must first get to the root of addressing the women's health journey as a whole.
In addition to the aforementioned factors, women's mental health is significantly impacted by socioeconomic factors and societal expectations, including the influence of social media. Socioeconomic challenges, such as austerity measures and rising inflation, disproportionately affect women, who bear approximately 86% of the burden.8 This financial strain often exacerbates mental health issues among women. Furthermore, women face a higher susceptibility to eating disorders9 and young women arethree times more likely10 to developing PTSD compared to men, contributing to the mental health disparity. According to a study by the Royal Society for Public Health11, the impact of social media on women's mental well-being is significant; young women in particular report that platforms like Instagram contribute to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety about body image and appearance. The pervasive influence of social media reinforces unrealistic standards, perpetuates comparison culture, and fosters negative self-perception among women.
This escalating mental health gap can have far-reaching consequences for both employees and employers. Women may encounter increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, and elevated turnover rates. This domino effect can lead to financial losses, strained team dynamics and challenges in cultivating a healthy work environment.
Bridging the Gap: How Employers Can Empower and Support Female Employees
To tackle this issue, organisations must prioritise raising mental health awareness, equipping managers and HR teams with the necessary training, and nurturing a supportive culture. Employers should also explore offering flexible work arrangements and investing in innovative digital health solutions like Peppy.
By implementing targeted support strategies, employers can foster a more inclusive and nurturing environment for female employees, enhancing their wellbeing and cultivating a more productive and thriving workforce.
Demystifying the factors that contribute to the disparity in mental health between men and women enables employers to better support and empower their female employees. By acknowledging that both genders face mental health challenges, organisations can adopt a proactive approach and pave the way for a more balanced, healthy and vibrant workplace for all.