Do you know that women are twice as likely to fall into depression than their male counterparts? Studies show that the prevalence of depression as a mental health illness is drastically increasing globally. Comparatively, this has significantly attracted researchers and mental experts to a study on the issue of the gender gap distribution of depression and mental illnesses. Countless evidence-based statistics from credible sources affirm women are more vulnerable to depressive behaviors than men. This blog provides the six major reasons women are more prone to depression.
How our hormones respond, and function is key to developing depressive behaviors. Unfortunately, women experience more biological processes in life that affect their hormonal functioning, making them more vulnerable to depression and related mental illnesses. Slavich & Sacher (2019) report that biological processes like menstrual cycles, pregnancy, fertility, menopause, and perimenopause increase their risks of experiencing depression.
Depression during the Menstrual cycle
Hormonal fluctuations are a common occurrence during the menstrual cycle period. The neurotransmitters of the cycle, like serotonin and dopamine, play a huge role in influencing depression in women. Moreover, studies show that premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a severe type of Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) illness that affects approximately 5-10% of females in their reproductive ages (Geethanjali, 2019). The majority of women with PMDD witness a greater level of anxiety and depression, especially a week after and before their periods.
According to Slavich & Sacher (2019), women at their reproductive age are more likely to experience significant changes in the levels of sex hormones resulting in severe PMS symptoms like mood swings, fatigue, and depressive symptoms. Studies show that PMS occurs in about 75% of women at a reproductive age between 24-41 years.
Depression during Pregnancy
Depression is more common in women than men, and the chances increase by about 10% during pregnancy (Smorti et al., 2019). The depressive symptoms increase during the weeks and months after having a baby. The pregnancy stage is the period most women experience the great influence of hormonal imbalance. The changes in the hormone affect brain chemicals resulting in depression.
The period of having a baby makes women very emotional. They are likely to experience periods of inadequate sleep and overwhelming feelings of worry, and unrealistic expectations of motherhood. Studies show that about 80% of women feel irritable, moody, and teary after having a baby (McLeish & Redshaw, 2017). This happens mostly after 3-10 days of delivery. Postnatal depression is also a common severe type of mental illness that occurs about 4 weeks to 52 weeks after a mother gives birth.
The perimenopause stage influences depression in women.
Women grow more depressive when they continue to approach the menopause stage. This period hormones fluctuate unpredictably, and it is literary known as the perimenopause stage. The period nearing menopause and the period after it sees women witness a sudden reduction of the estrogen hormones, thus influencing emotional and depressive behaviors (Mide-atolani, 2023). Women approaching this stage are more prone to depression at a rate higher than those in pregnancy because their monthly periods and hormonal influences start slowing down. It is only the women that experience bothersome that record fewer chances of being depressed.
The female gender is more vulnerable to psychological or mental factors of depression than their male counterparts. Examples of psychological factors that affect mental health include levels of motivation, perception, mental processing, learning, beliefs, and so forth.
What makes females experience more psychological factors of depression is their huge tendency to become emotional and sensitive to issues (Bluth, et al., 2017). Researchers report that they are more likely to repeat negative feelings and thoughts, especially during depressive events. The ruminating attitude makes women more likely to stay longer and experience severe impacts of depression than men. Studies show that they give more concern to psychological factors like stress-induced depression and negative body image, thus making them more vulnerable to not only depression but other mental illnesses as well.
Psychological factors of depression less influence men than women because they have the biological tendency to distract themselves from depressive situations and circumstances quickly, and this helps them in reducing their duration of being depressed (Bluth, et al., 2017). The increased amount of progesterone hormones in women also greatly explains why they are easily affected by psychological factors.
Decades of studies relate women and men differently in matters related to relationships, lifestyle choices, and coping skills. These are the major social factors contributing significantly to depression and mental illness. Studies show that women are twice as likely to experience depression from marital challenges, financial constraints, job loss, work-life balance, friendship loss, and other stressful bouts.
Culture and life events play a huge role in influencing stress and depression. The factors mostly relate to the beliefs and gender stereotyping in our societies. For instance, women are stereotyped as child bearers and domestic managers; they are also required to work professionally, which gives them significant stress and pressure. Another cultural factor is gender-based violence and sexual abuse of women. As Lövestad et al. 2017 reports, women and girls are more prone to emotional and physical abuse, putting them at a greater risk of being depressed.
In summary, we have identified that the three main factors that make women more depressed than men relate to the biological and hormonal aspects, psychological factors, and sociocultural events. On the biological aspect, women experience occasional hormonal imbalances, especially during pregnancy, monthly periods, and the premenopausal stage, making them more prone to depressive behaviors. Psychologically, they are more characterized by depression because of their emotional and sensitive nature. Researchers report that women are more likely to repeat negative thoughts when depressed, and that makes them prolong their depressive habits. Ultimately, the sociocultural element of society increases the vulnerability of women to depression as compared to men. Gender stereotyping makes the female gender occasionally experience depression through sexual and physical abuse, poverty, and financial constraints.
Bluth, K., Campo, R. A., Futch, W. S., & Gaylord, S. A. (2017). Age and gender differences in the associations of self-compassion and emotional well-being in a large adolescent sample. Journal of youth and adolescence, 46(4), 840-853.
Geethanjali, S. (2019). Efficacy of Clary Sage Oil on Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS): A Controlled Trial (Doctoral dissertation, Government Yoga and Naturopathy Medical College, Chennai).
Lövestad, S., Löve, J., Vaez, M., & Krantz, G. (2017). Prevalence of intimate partner violence and its association with symptoms of depression; a cross-sectional study based on a female population sample in Sweden. BMC public health, 17(1), 1-11.
McLeish, J., & Redshaw, M. (2017). Mothers’ accounts of the impact on emotional wellbeing of organised peer support in pregnancy and early parenthood: a qualitative study. BMC pregnancy and childbirth, 17(1), 1-14.
Mide-atolani, O. V. (2023). Menopausal Symptoms and Quality of Life among Women in Otun Community of Moba Local Government Area, Ekiti State.
Slavich, G. M., & Sacher, J. (2019). Stress, sex hormones, inflammation, and major depressive disorder: Extending Social Signal Transduction Theory of Depression to account for sex differences in mood disorders. Psychopharmacology, 236(10), 3063-3079.
Smorti, M., Ponti, L., & Pancetti, F. (2019). A comprehensive analysis of post-partum depression risk factors: the role of socio-demographic, individual, relational, and delivery characteristics. Frontiers in public health, 7, 295.