Women who experience sexism ‘three times more likely to report depression’

‘Sexism may serve as a barrier to healthy lifestyles that promote mental wellbeing’

Sabrina Barr
Monday 09 September 2019 09:28 BST
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Women who experience sex discrimination are three times more likely than those who don't to report depression, a new study has found.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) recently carried out an investigation to explore whether there is a connection between a woman's experience of sexism and their mental wellbeing.

The team analysed data from 2,956 women aged 16 and over who were questioned as part of the UK Household Longitudinal Study in 2009 and 2010.

The participants of the survey were asked if they had felt unsafe, been called names, been threatened or been physically attacked in various scenarios over the past year.

The respondents were then asked why they felt they had been discriminated against, in addition to questions about the state of their mental health.

According to the study's findings, which were published in the journal Health Psychology, the women who said they believed they had been discriminated against on account of their sex were three times more likely to report depression.

They were also 26 per cent more likely to report experiencing psychological distress.

Just under a fifth of the women questioned for the survey said that they had experienced sex discrimination over the past 12 months.

The sex discrimination reported in the study most commonly occurred on the street (77 per cent), on public transport (39.9 per cent) and in or close to train and bus stations (38.9 per cent).

The authors stated that as only a small percentage of men reported sex discrimination, they were not included in their analysis.

Dr Ruth Hackett, from the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at UCL and lead author of the study, said that the UK needs to "catch up with other European countries where street harassment already is illegal".

"We found that women who reported perceived sex discrimination were more likely to be depressed and have greater psychological distress, as well as poorer mental functioning, life satisfaction and self-rated health," Dr Hackett said.

The researcher added that "sexism may serve as a barrier to healthier lifestyles that promote mental wellbeing".

"Repeated exposure to stress may also lead to 'wear and tear' that disrupts normal biological processes," Dr Hackett explained.

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Dr Sarah Jackson, from the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at UCL and senior author of the study, said that the study's findings are "particularly concerning", as they suggest an "enduring impact of experiences of sex discrimination on mental health and wellbeing".

"They underscore the importance of tackling sexism not only as a moral problem but one that may have a lasting legacy on mental health," Dr Jackson stated.

If you are in need of mental health support, you can contact the free Samaritans helpline on 116 123.

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