- Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world today, among all people, but women are especially at risk.
- Statistics show that women experience depression almost twice as often as men—which raises due concern.
- Multiple factors play a role, including biology, hormones, and a woman’s tendency to ruminate over troubling feelings or situations.
- Additionally, men are less likely to acknowledge, discuss, or seek help for difficult feelings, such as those related to depression.
- This further explains why women are statistically more likely to develop depression, and also raises a new area of concern.
- It’s important we continue to normalize talk about mental health as well as mental health treatment to ensure all people feel comfortable seeking treatment.
Major depression is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in our world today. According to Mental Health America (MHA), more than 16 million people in the US are affected by major depression in any given year. And while anyone can develop this condition—any age, sex, or race—it is even more widespread among women. Here are a few more statistics from MHA:
- Approximately 12 million women in the US are clinically depressed every year.
- Around one in every eight women will develop clinical depression in their lifetime.
- Women experience depression almost twice as often as men.
This begs the question: why is it that women are more likely to fall victim to depression? Is it in their genes? Or, maybe it’s environmental. Or perhaps it’s entirely more complicated than that.
Biology and Brooding: Big Pieces to the Puzzle
While there’s no simple explanation for why women are twice as likely to fall victim to depression, we were warm! As it turns out, it has to do with a difference in biology, hormones, and environmental factors. Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert, explains:
“One reason women are more likely to fall into depression has to do with their biology and sex hormones. The hormones govern many actions and patterns, things like mood, digestion, and sexual appetite (to name a few). A woman has a lot more going on there, on a regular basis, what with menstruation cycles, pregnancies, giving birth, and altogether being more prone to emotional distress to begin with. (Obviously there are always exceptions.)”
He goes on to explain that women tend to ruminate over their difficult feelings and the situation that brought about those feelings. Men, on the other hand, often act (even if it’s an unhelpful act). “Women often exhibit greater potential to rehash and relive a situation in their minds,” says Backe. “This brooding nature may cause a rise in stress and anxiety, possibly mounting to depression. Men generally have more of a tendency to act than to brood. However, these actions may have a highly self-destructive nature (such as abusing alcohol, drugs, pornography, and other potentially-harmful substances or patterns of behavior).”
An Emotional Disguise—Another Key Factor
Additionally, men are less likely to open up about their feelings and seek mental health help. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), multiple studies and surveys have shown that men (of all ages and ethnicities) are less likely to seek help for a range of problems… one being depression.
“This is a broad generalization, but overall, men are less open about their emotions, and they can also be less aware of them,” Backe explains. “What this means is that whereas a woman may exhibit symptoms of depression earlier, a guy could carry his depression for a long while before it is addressed and diagnosed. And by the time it is dealt with, the patient may already be suffering from a much deeper depression.”
This explains (in part) why women are statistically more likely to fall victim to depression, whilst also shining light on another major area of concern: the lack of mental health treatment sought and received by men. The APA says that we can help men help themselves by convincing them that the problems they need help resolving are normal. In other words, we must continue to normalize mental health treatment, so that all parties feel comfortable seeking mental health treatment.