Does gender inequality make you sad? A new study reveals that the gender wage gap influences depression and anxiety in women.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that women who earn less than their male counterparts are more likely to be diagnosed with a major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety order, according to a press release.
Women and men with similar incomes are equally as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. However, women who make less than their male counterparts are 2.5 times more likely to be depressed and four times more likely to have generalized anxiety disorder than men.
The findings are based on a 2001 population sample of 22,851 adults between the ages of 30 and 65.
Jonathan Platt, co-author of the study and doctoral student at Columbia University’s Department of Epidemiology, found that gender discrimination plays a critical role in depression and anxiety.
“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,” Platt said. “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.”
In the U.S., white women make 79 cents for every dollar white men make, but this wage gap is even bigger for women of color. The American Association of University Women found in 2014 that Latina women make 54 cents and African-American women make 63 cents to every white man's dollar.
It's difficult to measure gender discrimination, but Platt finds that depression and anxiety disparities is an entrance point to this research.
"Gender discrimination is difficult to measure, especially when embedded in the structures of a typical workplace," Platt told NTRSCTN in an email.
"We believe the wage gap is a good proxy for this type of discrimination and sought to demonstrate that unequal pay for equal work has real mental health implications for working women. While more research is needed, we believe that policies to reduce the wage gap could reduce women’s risk of depression and anxiety," he explained.
Katherine Keyes, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University and senior author of the study, noted that addressing structural discrimination is an important step to improving women's mental health:
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.