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Why Are Women 16% More Likely To Have Mental Health Issues Due To COVID-19?

Coronavirus has left the entire nation in panic. It has taken loved ones, taken a toll on medical professionals, disrupted employment, and led to psychological devastation. Uncertainty is prevailing everywhere, and that has made a detrimental impact on both men and women’s mental health. 

Stress, loneliness, depression, and anxiety issues are getting severe with each passing day. Women especially are being disproportionately impacted. According to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in March, women are 16% more vulnerable to coronavirus related stress, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and worry. Around 53% of women and 37% of men are likely to suffer from mental health issues due to the coronavirus.

Around 57% of mothers and 32% of fathers of young adults have expressed that their mental health condition has worsened due to the pandemic. During the initial phase of lockdown, the figures were not so mind-boggling. In March, 36% of mothers and 31% of fathers were stressed due to coronavirus. The gap was only 5%. The psychological impact of coronavirus may increase if the situation doesn’t drastically change soon.

Why are women so vulnerable?

Women are facing the toughest challenge ever since the COVID-19 outbreak. Single mothers who have lost jobs during the pandemic are going through a very stressful time. Unemployment assistance will only last for so long. With no money or support, anxiety levels and depression have escalated in the last few months.

Questions about paying rent, school tuition fees and how long unemployment benefits will last have wreaked havoc on a single mom’s mental health. As it is, women are paid less than men due to gender discrimination in the country. Women earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men due to the gender pay gap; and that’s even less for women of color. Economic shocks have increased their depression and anxiety levels. 

The condition of the stay-at-home moms is not better either. Many of their responsibilities have tripled during the lockdown period. From a gender equity viewpoint, partners should take 50% responsibility for household chores. But has that happened during the Pandemic? How many households are there where men take equal responsibility for household chores? With so many responsibilities and the anxiety about the uncertain future, their stress level has gone up. 

Numerous articles have outlined the increased amount of stress and responsibilities working moms are facing in the home, something which has not affected working dads in the same way.

When it comes to pregnancy, depression is already a common occurrence. The pandemic has brought added stress, isolation, and economic uncertainty. Dr. Pooja Laxmi, who works as an assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., has expressed her concern over the mental health of pregnant women. She has observed a steady rise in perinatal anxiety and depression. Those who were already going through anxiety are now showing symptoms of depression as well, especially given the restrictions on movement and outdoor activities with the pandemic. 

According to the World Health Organization, gender disparity is there when it comes to mental health issues. Depression and anxiety predominate in women. And, this type of mental health disorder becomes a serious problem for one in 3 women in society. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorders and substance abuse. Every 1 in 5 has a high rate of alcohol dependence. Only 1 in 12 women have alcohol dependence. 

According to the American Psychological Association, women tend to suffer from anxiety and depression more because they tend to continuously focus on the negative emotions and problems instead of thinking about problem-solving techniques. They then tend to internalize emotions, and this can trigger loneliness, withdrawal, and depression. Environmental stressors also play a big role here.

Coping mechanisms  

Although studies are showing women becoming more susceptible to anxiety, depression, and stress than men, the pandemic has given rise to many experts, journalists and commentators exposing not only the problem, but sharing ways to mitigate stress and anxiety wherever possible. 

Coping mechanisms

  1. Pregnant women should have an honest discussion with doctors about depression and side-effects of medication. They can consult doulas and behavioral therapists online. 
  1. Articles on coping with job-related stress during COVID-19 can be helpful and provide a road map to navigating uncertain periods ahead.
  2. Finding dedicated time for self-care and relaxation. Taking a walk around the neighborhood, watching inspiring documentaries on Netflix, or scheduling time to stay away from emails, calendars and digital devices are just a few simple ways to focus on yourself.
  3. Online counseling has become an important way for many people to manage stress and depression, as an increasing number of medical professionals offer their services via the internet. 
  4. Have a discussion with your partner and those in your household about division of responsibilities. 
  5. Take advantage of technology that allows you to connect with friends and family. Loneliness has become a real problem for many people, but there are ways to ensure continued connection and communication. 
  6. To address various physical and mental health issues, you can call the OWH Helpline no 1-800-994-9662 from 9 am to 6 pm. 

COVID-19 is still a deadly viral infection. The economic impact and health hazards are too huge to be ignored. However, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on mental health as well, and it shouldn’t be ignored either. The government should take adequate steps to address mental health concerns along with the physical.