Women’s Mental Health
Women, from a young age and throughout their lifetime, face unique challenges that could add to the risk of developing a mental health problem. Early intervention and professional support, when necessary, are imperative in protecting their mental health. Raising awareness of women’s mental health not only removes the barriers around help-seeking behaviour but can also help women to feel less alone.
We have outlined below some key facts about women’s mental health and the unique life events and hardships that women commonly face throughout their lifetime.
Prevalence of common mental health disorders and help-seeking behaviour
Statistics show that women are more likely to experience mental health problems compared to men.
However, it is worth noting that the differences in the prevalence of mental health conditions between genders are complex and impacted by biological factors as well as social factors, such as gendered expectations around help-seeking, or gender disparity stressors.
Nevertheless, it provides us with an overview of the current mental health situation.
- Women are at a higher prevalence rate of depression than men, 3.5% of women, compared to 2.2% of men in Hong Kong (Lam et al, 2015).
- Female adolescents are more than twice as likely to experience depression, and almost four times likely than male adolescents to experience severe depression (Avenevoli, Swendsen, He, Burstein & Merikangas, 2014).
Learn more about depression here.
- The prevalence rate of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) among women in Hong Kong is 5.36%, and 1.9% for other anxiety disorders (including obsessive-compulsive disorder , panic disorders and all types of phobia) (Lam et al., 2015).
- Women also have a higher risk of experiencing Mixed Anxiety Depressive Disorder (MADD), with a prevalence rate of 8.97%. (Lam et al., 2015).
Learn more about Anxiety here.
- The prevalence rate of eating disorders in Asia is 3.5% (Galmiche, Déchelotte, Lambert, Tavolacci, 2019).
- In Hong Kong, around 1 in 200 female students suffer from anorexia nervosa, with a higher prevalence in specific sub-groups, such as dancers or models (Castle Peak Hospital Institute of Mental Health, 2005).
- Bulimia nervosa is 5-10 times more common than anorexia nervosa and accounts for 2-3% of young women (Castle Peak Hospital Institute of Mental Health, 2005).
- Binge eating disorder is 3 times more common than anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, affecting 3.5% of women in their life (Hudson, Hiripi, Pop & Kessler, 2007).
- Women are more likely to engage in emotional eating behaviours, such as using food as a response to stress and emotions. Increasing food intake and changing eating habits can trigger anxious feelings, which sustains a vicious cycle.
- Mixed results were shown in terms of engaging in inappropriate compensatory behaviours. Lewinsohn et al. (2002) showed that women are more likely to engage in inappropriate compensatory behaviours, yet there is no gender difference observed among college students (Lipson & Sonneville, 2016).
Learn more about eating problems and disorders here.
Coping and help-seeking behaviours
In addition to responding to stressful situations with ‘fight or flight (or freeze)’ responses, more studies suggest women are also likely to adopt the ‘tend-and-befriend’ strategy. Stemming from an evolutionary perspective, ‘tend’ refers to nurturing activities for yourself and your offspring. ‘Befriending’ refers to creating and maintaining social networks during the process. This may explain the trend that women are more likely to open up to people around them and seek support and attention when in need.