Gender disparities in mental health

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This paper examines current evidence regarding rates, risk factors, correlates and consequences of gender disparities in mental health. Gender is conceptualized as a structural determinant of mental health and mental illness that runs like a fault line, interconnecting with and deepening the disparities associated with other important socioeconomic determinants such as income, employment and social position. Gender differentially affects the power and control men and women have over these socioeconomic determinants, their access to resources, and their status, roles, options and treatment in society. Gender has significant explanatory power regarding differential susceptibility and exposure to mental health risks and differences in mental health outcomes. Gender differences in rates of overall mental disorder, including rare disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, are negligible. However, highly significant gender differences exist for depression, anxiety and somatic complaints that affect more than 20% of the population in established economies. Depression accounts for the largest proportion of the burden associated with all the mental and neurological disorders and is a particular focus of this paper. It is predicted to be the second leading cause of global burden of disease by 2020.

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