Why Do Women Suffer More From Stress?

Statistically, women suffer from depression and anxiety disorders more frequently than men. The only exception to this is social anxiety disorder, which seems to occur in equal numbers regardless of sex. For all other forms of anxiety, including everything from acute stressors to diagnosed anxiety disorders, women tend to be the forerunners.

Anxiety disorders can be debilitating. They can increase the risk of diseases, including heart disease, which kills 17.7 million people globally every year. They can also increase the risk of depression and suicide in people who suffer from them and can prevent people from being able to function on a day-to-day basis. Mental illness can dramatically affect your standard of living.

While we know that women suffer from anxiety more frequently than men, the reasons why are still unclear. It’s most likely that there is a combination of nature and nurture at the heart of it, meaning that some factors are biological and some are environmental. Most studies will not be able to account for all of the influences, but we can consider them from a broad perspective.

Nature

Research shows that women tend to have more hormonal fluctuations than men do. Some of the hormones that surge during pregnancy, for example, are correlated with an increased tendency to develop obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which is classified as perinatal OCD. Hormonal fluctuations may contribute to an increased level of stress, but they don’t necessarily account for the increased frequency of lifelong anxiety diagnoses in women.

There do appear to be some genetic factors. Based on studies of twins and family records, women are more likely to have stress and anxiety issues. These studies are the best indicators we have that some stress is due to a difference between the sexes and rather than environmental conditions.

Nurture

A key indicator that environment influences stress is that prevalence differs between cultures. Women in North America have been found to be more stressed than women in other cultures, despite generally having better access to the resources to create what many would consider relatively more comfortable lives for themselves.

This cultural difference could be explained by the fact that stress is often measured by Western standards, so it’s possible this is a false positive result. However, I believe it’s still fair to assume that the environment a person is in can contribute to their stress levels.

Today, most women still perform the majority of the unpaid work at home, despite joining or wanting to join the workforce. Even as more women enter the workforce, they is often an expectation that they will continue to take responsibility for housework.

Of course, it’s a difficult feat to keep up a home and a career without one interfering with the other. Women are also still generally expected to be caretakers – the ones responsible for remembering birthdays and anniversaries, sending out cards and making sure everyone in the family is fed and taken care of.

Many women do attest to having a caretaker mentality, though it’s hard to say if this is innate or created from societal expectations. While every woman is different, the responsibility and expectation can take an emotional toll. And while it’s becoming more common for men to take on the same at-home responsibilities as women, I don’t believe that it is expected of men in the same way.

The mental health gap between men and women may be partially biological, but it doesn’t have to be as wide as it is. Ultimately, working toward a more equitable environment will benefit everyone.

Mind the Gap: Explaining Unequal Pay

We’ve heard the statistic over and over. On average, women make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. We’ve also heard the proposed solution over and over: institute policies that require equal pay. Yet, a lack of policy isn’t the only thing dragging down women’s wages.

An analysis of what’s behind that pesky wage problem reveals that even if women were to work in a field with fair pay – on paper – they’d be affected by the type of work they do, how many hours they can put in (skewed by women’s enduring role as caregivers), and how flexible their schedule is.

A consultant, for example, has to be available 9 – 5 to work with her clients. If she has to miss a few hours to pick up children from school, or help look after a sick relative, that time – however equally compensated – is still time lost.

A woman artist, however, might be free to construct her days as she wishes, and as long as she puts in the necessary hours, it doesn’t matter which hours those are. It’s a lifestyle that’s still exhausting, but not one that forces a logistical exclusion of family or finances. An equal wage policy would only help women who have sufficient freedom to take advantage of it.

Tech company Redfin did a little soul searching and found another contributing factor: companies with women in their leadership tend to have fairer pay. It’s an embodiment of what should be an obvious trend: women want to pay women more. Redfin found that in the average tech company, those with fewer women in leadership positions earned the average 77 cents for every 96 cents men earned.

“At companies with more women executives, women earned 98 cents for every dollar that men in similar roles earned. The two-cent pay gap might not sound like much, but for a man earning a $100,000 salary, a woman would earn $96,000 at a company with fewer women executives, compared to $98,000 at a company with more women at the top. This disparity adds up to tens of thousands of dollars over a woman’s career.”

As a result of their analysis, Redfin began publishing their pay rates, a sort of open accountability strategy that has proved effective. (When the BBC released their salaries publicly, for example, female employees went up in arms after it highlighted a disparity between their highest paid men and women).

It’s not all bad news. Pew Research Centre has found that despite its persistence, the gender gap has actually shrunk. And the cultural clamor surrounding the disparity puts immense pressure on even the largest companies to write the same numbers on their employees’ cheques, regardless of gender.

Crowdfund The Mom Pod with Us!

Today, we are launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise $35,000 in six weeks! Launched in January 2016, The Mom Pod is a bi-weekly podcast series related to motherhood around the world, produced and hosted by Girls’ Globe bloggers and new mothers Julia Wiklander and Emma Saloranta. We have already produced 6 episodes, reaching individuals in over 50 countries and listened to over 1000 times!

E

pisodes cover a range of issues important to mothers and incorporate interviews, surveys and more to inform and raise awareness about issues relevant to parents and other caregivers. The Mom Pod episodes bring together research, data, hot topics in the media and personal stories and experiences from mothers around the world.

The Objectives of The Mom Pod are:

  • to promote understanding and tolerance
  • to share experiences, information and practice across cultures
  • to disseminate interesting and important information to parents and people working with maternal and child health on relevant and timely topics
  • to create a judgement-free space to share personal, sensitive and uplifting stories of motherhood

Emma and Julia decided to start The Mom Pod after they shared their experiences of pregnancy, birth and becoming new mothers in different parts of the world. They realized the need to break taboos, spread information and share experiences as mothers – to empower each other in this new journey. Listen to the first episodes of The Mom Pod on Soundcloud, iTunes or find them on girlsglobe.org.

Through this crowdfunding campaign we want to raise $35,000 to finance the growth and continuation of The Mom Pod. The funding will enable us to:

  • produce at least 8 additional episodes – by paying for our time, travel, and necessary web tools and resources
  • upgrade our podcasting equipment to improve sound quality, recording possibilities and ultimately, the experience for our listeners. – enabling us to record with high-quality from multiple environments and diversifying the reach of The Mom Pod

With your support you will have the possibility to listen to an amazing podcast directly on your mobile device and the web. We want to thank you in a variety of creative ways. That’s why we are working with Finnish illustrator Elina Tuomi to create some great perks for you and we want to connect with you and give you the possibility to influence The Mom Pod.

“We live in a world where motherhood as a whole is undervalued. While we espouse the importance of mothers on Mother’s Day and in facebook posts, we still value the work of stay at home mothers less than we do the work of doctors, lawyers or bankers, and we minimize the allowances we make in the workplace for working moms. In reality, it’s the immense effort of mothers everyday that fuel our own success and future generations; they are, in their own way, the axis on which humanity spins. The Mom Pod is working on elevating that discussion on a global level, and creating a place for mothers everywhere to share in the challenges, heartbreak and shared experience of being a mother, across borders and cultures.”

Farah Mohammed, Journalist

Other Ways You Can Help

Thanks for reading our presentation! There are several ways you can help us, besides donating to our campaign.

  •  We know that you have people in your network that share our passion! Share this campaign with them and through your social media channels. Tip: Use the Indiegogo share tools.
  • Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter
  • If you haven’t yet, listen to our episodes on iTunes or Soundcloud
  • Want to do more? Contact themompod@girlsglobe.org! We look forward to being in touch!