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Wage Gap linked to Increased Risk of Depression, Anxiety Disorder in Women, Study Says

Update Date: Jan 05, 2016 11:32 AM EST

The gender wage gap can potentially explain why women are more likely than men to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders.

For this study, the research team at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health set out to examine the relationship between the differences in income based on one's gender and the risk of developing mental health conditions, particularly major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. The education levels and years of work experience were pretty well matched between male and female participants.

The team found that women were two times more likely than men to suffer from depression. When the team factored in the gap in their wages, the rate of depression in women became 2.5 times higher than the rate recorded in men. Depression rates were the same between men and women when women either earned more or earned the same amount of money as their male counterparts.

For generalized anxiety disorder, the researchers reported that in general, women were 2.5 times more likely to suffer from this condition than men were. After factoring in wage gap, the risk of generalized anxiety disorder was four times higher in women than in men. In women with the same or higher income than men, risk of generalized anxiety disorder decreased significantly.

"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 researchers Jonathan Platt reported by Medical Xpress. "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."

Katherine Keyes, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology and senior author of the study, added, "Our findings suggest that policies must go beyond prohibiting overt gender discrimination like sexual harassment. 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."

The data came from a sample of 22,581 working adults who were between the ages of 30 and 65 collected from 2001 to 2002. Depression and anxiety were assessed using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel IV (DSM-IV).

The study's findings were published in the journal, Social Science & Medicine.

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