Which Sex is Stressed Most? Women

From Rob Verger:

I welcome a review of this book by someone.

Women are more likely than men to suffer from depression. Women are more likely to suffer from anxiety, too, and sleep disorders, as well as a host of other emotional and medical problems. On the other end of the spectrum, men suffer more often from substance abuse issues and autism. But as it turns out, mental health issues do not scale up measure for measure on both sides—for women are more likely than men to struggle under the weight of many emotional disorders.

Such are the findings of The Stressed Sex: Uncovering the Truth about Men, Women, and Mental Health, a new book by Daniel and Jason Freeman, out from Oxford University Press. Authored by two brothers—one a clinical psychologist, the other a writer—the book explores the how and why behind the finding that mental health problems plague men and women to different degrees. Daniel Freeman, a psychologist and Oxford professor, says that he and his brother came across the topic indirectly. While working on a previous book on mental health problems, they noticed differences in the rates in which different emotional disorders affected the sexes. It suggests, he says, “a major public health issue.”…

To write the book, the Freemans went to the “evidence base” and looked for literature on the topic. They examined 12 national mental-health surveys, and found that in eight of them, there were distinct differences between women and men when it came to rates of disorders. A German survey showed that, in the year before the survey was conducted, 25 percent of men had suffered from an emotional disorder; for women, the number was 37 percent. In the United States, according to the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey Replication, those numbers were 29.9 percent and 34.7 percent, respectively. For depression specifically, according to the same U.S. survey, in the year before the research was done, 4.9 percent of men had experienced depression, while the number for women was nearly double at 8.6 percent. (Three of the 12 surveys the authors examined “suggest there are no major differences between the sexes,” as the book puts it.)…

So the big question is why? The answer: it’s complicated. Emotional disorders are not usually caused by one thing, but instead by many different factors—environment, psychology, biology—working together. The biggest likely factor? “The environment above all,” says Freeman. “And it’s stress. And it’s stress that’s from the social roles that women have”—such as domestic work—“all while these roles are typically less valued and less rewarded and the person has less control. It’s all of this combined with the pressures to look good, I think, that really affect women’s self-esteem.” And poor self-esteem is, not surprisingly, connected with depression.

But, Freeman, adds, “It is more complicated than that.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Susan_G1

    “It is more complicated than that.”

    I agree. Certainly, some calculation must factor in for the fact that men are less likely, even in upper-middle to upper classes, to seek treatment. But that women carry the burden of more stress and anxiety is, I think, evident.

    One factor may be that women feel less power over their fates, for a number of reasons: lower or no paycheck, following the primary wage-earner around, etc. Another may be the effect of being the single parent even in married households. (It happens all the time.)

    As to self-esteem, my belief is that it is far from limited to certain groups. In honest discussions, it appears to me to be as prevalent in men as in women. We are broken, and we all fall short of not only God’s desires for us, but our own.

  • http://mikeblyth.blogspot.com/ Mike Blyth

    The evidence presented is that more women than men are diagnosed with some mental disorders, and the “big question is why?” We’re told that there are many factors but that the authors think that one, stress, is likely most important. Why? No evidence given. What’s the point of the whole article, other than just giving someone’s opinion? Does the book itself then proceed to explain why it is stress per se rather than, say, biologic factors or a biologically-determined difference in response to stress that leads to the differential rate of mental disorders?

  • BeardedBowtieGuy

    Good points. I also wonder, if women are more likely to be depressed, why are men tremendously more likely to commit suicide? I could speculate, but without actual research we won’t know.

  • Janet

    To suggest that women feel powerless, or that they are not the primary wage-earner (I know of several families where, in fact, women are the primary wage-earner or even the sole wage-earner in an intact family), seems sexist to me. We may share our anecdotal observations, but we really don’t know until some formal research is done. If I were to speculate, however, I would say women are more stressed because since our societal shift of gender roles which occurred gradually over the last 4 decades, women carry a very heavy burden – they are now frequently wage-earners within the family often in significant career-building professions, the primary child caregiver in many families, and still often carrying a significant amount of homebuilding/maintaining responsibilities. In my anecdotal observations, among female coworkers, women in my church, etc., women carry the lion share of these responsibilities (child care and home responsibilities) in addition to their work outside the home because their husbands for some reason refuse to pitch in at an equal level. Again, anecdotal observations.

  • Susan_G1

    Because this book does not cite the research does not mean it has not been done. You may find it sexist; it doesn’t mean it’s erroneous.

  • Michael

    A very interesting topic. My experience is that the ‘middle sex’ – intersex – is the more stressed. Hiding with shame, fear of people knowing, the projected ignorance of others, outcast and rejected … the list could be a great deal longer, but I would run out of space here.

  • Susan_G1

    Women attempt suicide more often than men. Men succeed more often than women. This is in part due to methods chosen (men:guns/hanging, women:pills/slitting wrists) and partly due to women using an attempt as a way to call for help. Men tend not to do that; it’s called a cry for attention. Women do so much more than men.

  • jenny

    Stress / sex between wife and husband:
    - how often men say just before approaching their wife : “I hope you don’t get pregnant this time…”
    - what a woman feels upon hearing this ? she feels stressed… can she enjoy the “making love” ? maybe not….
    just thinking….

  • Janet

    Susan_G1, I’m not sure what data you are using to determine that the female suicide attempt is a cry for attention. Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention. Be very careful about assuming that a female attempted suicide is a “cry for attention.” That attitude toward a female attempt could lead to not taking the woman seriously, and ultimately her untimely death.

  • Janet

    BeardedBowtieGuy, There has been quite a bit of research done on gender, age, cultural, etc., variables associated with suicide. Just Google it. :)

  • Janet

    Susan_G1, are you aware of research that supports a positive correlation between adult female depression and lower wages/non-wager earner and “following the primary wage-earner around”? I suspect the former might have already be studied but doubt the latter. I’d be interested in any research you are aware of.

  • Janet

    Susan_G1, I’m not sure what data you are using to determine that the female suicide attempt is a cry for attention. Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention. Be very careful about assuming that a female attempted suicide is a “cry for attention.” That attitude toward a female attempt could lead to not taking the woman seriously, and ultimately her untimely death.

  • BeardedBowtieGuy

    I’m aware of the statistics about who commits suicide, but my question was about why men commit suicide more if they’re less likely to be depressed. For example, is depression experienced differently in women & men, resulting in a higher suicide rate for the latter? Or is depression under diagnosed in men? The research isn’t conclusive.

  • Susan_G1

    I’m a physician who, in my capacity in the Emergency Department, has had to medically clear all patients committed for psychiatric reasons, to deal with consultant Psychiatrists and crisis intervention workers who often are the first responders (we are the second – they come to the ED.) Please do not think I underestimate anything, nor do I ultimately partake in any woman’s untimely demise. It is a well articulated concept, a cry for help/attention. It did not originate with me. It’s even rife in the psychiatric literature. The young woman who has slashed her wrist shallowly with no significant bleeding, or one who has taken 50 aspirin is usually exhibiting what we call a cry for help. Rest assured, after her medical exam and treatment, she goes into the Psychiatric facility.


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