Social and economic factors can put women at greater risk of poor mental health than men. However, women generally find it easier to talk about their feelings and have stronger social networks, both of which can help protect their mental health.
What affects women’s mental health?
Around one in five women have a common mental health problem such as depression and anxiety. While there can be many reasons why these develop, some risk factors affect many women. Women are more likely than men:
- to be carers, which can lead to stress, anxiety and isolation. Carers UK has information on looking after your mental health
- to live in poverty which, along with concerns about personal safety and working mainly in the home, can lead to social isolation
- to experience physical and sexual abuse, which can have a long-term impact on their mental health. Contact Refuge if you’re experiencing domestic violence
- to experience sexual violence, which can cause PTSD.
When women find it hard to talk about difficult feelings, they tend to internalise them. This can lead to depression, eating disorders and self-harm. Men are more likely to act out their feelings through disruptive or anti-social behaviour.
On the other hand, some factors protect women’s mental health: they tend to have better social networks than men, find it easier to confide in their friends and are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem.
Women’s health issues
Life events and hormonal changes can affect women’s mental health.
Having a baby is a life-changing event. For some women it can trigger postnatal depression (after the birth) and/or antenatal depression (during pregnancy). The term ‘perinatal depression’ covers both.
Perinatal depression isn’t a sign of weakness and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. There is help available: talking therapy, medication or specialist services depending on your symptoms and what’s right for you.
PANDAS offers information and support to people experiencing perinatal mental health problems.
While every woman’s experience of the menopause is different, many women find they have symptoms in addition to their periods stopping. These can include changes to your mental health such as mood swings, anxiety and feeling low. Treatment includes hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or talking therapy. Speak to your GP about what’s best for you.
What can I do if I’m worried about my mental health?
If you want some tips on staying well, start by looking at our 10 practical ways to look after your mental health. Making simple changes such as talking about your feelings, keeping active and eating well can help you feel better.
If you’re concerned you’re developing a mental health problem, talk to your GP. It can be daunting, but most people find that speaking to their GP and getting help and support can make a big difference to their lives.
If you're in distress and need immediate help or are feeling like ending your life, please call 999 or go to A&E and ask for the contact of the nearest crisis resolution team. These are teams of mental health care professionals who work with people in severe distress.
There are organisations that offer practical and emotional advice and support. Find out more on our ‘getting help’ page.