You’ve heard of the gender pay gap, but what about the gender mental health gap? Recent studies reveal widening discrepancies 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.
Women are grappling with higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression 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 chasm 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.
- Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women and increases the risk of mental health disorders.
- Miscarriage causes symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
- Approximately 13% of pregnant women experience depression, rising to 20% in low- and middle-income countries.
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. This financial strain often exacerbates mental health issues among women. Furthermore, women face a higher susceptibility to eating disorders and have a two to three times greater risk of developing PTSD compared to men, contributing to the mental health disparity. According to a study by the Royal Society for Public Health, 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, a platform that delivers specialised support for women. You might think that offering specialist, 1-to-1 mental health support isn’t within your benefits budget, but employee health platforms like Peppy are making it possible; leading employers can connect every employee to a trained expert via their smartphone, at a very affordable cost.
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.