Why are so many women depressed?

Over a period of decades, study
after study has suggested that women are diagnosed with depression at twice the
rate of men; in recent years, one study found this specific ratio occurring
across nine different countries, regardless of economics and culture. As
Stephanie Merritt, who has written widely on the subject, pointed out, these
findings are open to question – “because it’s possible that, for men, drug and
alcohol abuse could be symptoms of a depression that they just can’t articulate.
It could be that women are more able to ask for help.” But there is no doubt
that the numbers regarding women and depression are stark – 11.2 per cent of
the female population are experiencing it at any one time. And those figures
are on the rise.

Depression can, of course, have a
multitude of sources – divorces, bereavements, the sea-deep pain of some
childhood trauma. But those problems have always existed. When asked where she
thought depression comes from and whether it had a physical basis or the old
culprit hormones could be at fault, she said: 
“No, there’s no evidence for that at all,” she said. “I remember back in
the 1980s… the received wisdom was that women got depressed after childbirth
because of their hormones. It’s always your hormones. But at that time,
under… there was a huge recession, and there were many men who had lost their
jobs at the steelworks. Their wives could work as secretaries or in shops, and
the men stayed at home with small children. You suddenly found that there was
an awful lot of postnatal depression among men. That’s it. It’s being at home,
bringing up small children, and nobody ever addressing you as yourself.”

Diagnosed with
clinical depression in her mid-30’s Ms Martin says she felt that, “there’s
massive pressure on women these days to hold down a good, rewarding, fulfilling
job, but also to be a good mother, and then to look good, and to look after
yourself. I think there comes a point where your body can’t take it.” She also
suspected that we are being made sicker as a result of our culture of
entitlement. Consumer culture constantly undermines the idea that sadness can
be an acceptable part of our lives – instead we are taught that the perfect
life is verdantly happy, and that any malady can be treated, at a cost.

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