Wage gap could explain why women are more likely to be anxious and depressed than men

January 05, 2016

January 5, 2016--The odds of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder were markedly greater among women who earned less than their male counterparts, with whom they were matched on education and years of experience, according to new research conducted at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Results of the study are online in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

The odds that an American woman was diagnosed with depression in the past year are nearly twice that of men. However, this disparity looks very different when accounting for the wage gap: Among women whose income was lower than their male counterparts, the odds of major depression were nearly 2.5 times higher than men; but among women whose income equaled or exceeded their male counterparts, their odds of depression were no different than men.

Results were similar for generalized anxiety disorder. Overall, women's odds of past-year axiety were more than 2.5 times higher than men's. Where women's incomes were lower than their male counterparts, their odds of anxiety disorder were more than four times higher. For women whose income equaled or exceeded their male counterparts, their odds of anxiety disorder were greatly decreased.

The findings are based on data from a 2001-2002 U.S. population-representative sample of 22,581 working adults ages 30-65. Researchers tested the impact of structural wage disparities on depression and anxiety outcomes, according to criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, version IV (DSM-IV).

"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," said Jonathan Platt, a PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology, who was the first author of the paper. "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."

While the U.S. has passed legislation to address some of the most overt forms of gender discrimination faced by working women, less conspicuous forms of structural discrimination persist. As examples, the researchers refer to the norms, expectations, and opportunities surrounding the types of jobs women occupy and the way those jobs are valued and compensated relative to men.

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

"Our findings suggest that policies must go beyond prohibiting overt gender discrimination like sexual harassment," said Katherine Keyes, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology and senior author. "Further, while it is commonly believed that gender differences in depression and anxiety are biologically rooted, these results suggest that such differences are much more socially constructed that previously thought, indicating that gender disparities in psychiatric disorders are malleable and arise from unfair treatment ."

According to Keyes, policies such as paid parental leave, affordable childcare, and flexible work schedules may ameliorate some of this burden, although more research into understanding the ways in which discrimination plays a role in mental health outcomes is needed.

"Structural forms of discrimination may explain a substantial proportion of gender disparities in mood and anxiety disorders in the U.S. adult population," said Keyes. "Greater attention to the fundamental mechanisms that perpetuate wage disparities is needed, not only because it is unjust, but so that we may understand and be able to intervene to reduce subsequent health risks and disparities."
-end-
The work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Mental Health Psychiatric Epidemiology training grant (5-T32-MH-13043-43).

Co-authors are Seth J. Prins, MPH, and Lisa Bates, ScD, in the Department of Epidemiology. The authors report no conflict of interests.

About Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Founded in 1922, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers including ICAP (formerly the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www.mailman.columbia.edu

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Related Depression Articles from Brightsurf:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.

Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.

Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.

Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.

Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.

Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.

CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Read More: Depression News and Depression Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.