Gender matters when it comes to mental health

Staff Writer

More than twice as many Ontario female students report being diagnosed with panic attacks and anxiety than their male peers.

The OUCHA survey found more gender differences.


Why does gender matter?

This is the big question!

Psychiatrists aren’t really sure why, but common theories suggest links to trauma, discrimination, body chemistry and/or stressful life experiences


Half of women experience some sort of trauma in their lives. One in four will experience a form of sexual assault. One in three will face abuse by a domestic partner. Trauma is a risk factor for many mental health issues.

In addition, there are often problems with personal care in response to trauma. Many women report being blamed by third-party individuals for their own sexual assaults or for staying in an abusive relationship.

Some find things, such as street harassment or violence in media, compound their pain after a traumatic event.


In today’s society, women still do most of the housework and child care, even when they work full time. Add to that the wage gap and the reality (real or perceived) that many women have to work harder than men to get the same credit. Then there’s workplace sexual harassment, which can tear down a woman’s self-esteem.

Body Chemistry

Some research suggests hormonal differences between men and women may play a role in mental illness. Women, for example, tend to produce lower quantities of serotonin than men, possibly due to differences in hormone levels. Serotonin, nicknamed the “happy hormone” or the “calming hormone,” plays a major role in mood. Serotonin deficiencies have been implicated in a host of mental health issues, most notably depression and anxiety.

Differences in Reporting Cases

Men are often socialized not to share their emotions and as a result view emotional challenges as a form of weakness. It’s likely, then, that men are less likely to seek mental health care than women — a decision that makes women more likely to receive a diagnosis.

Differences in Diagnosis

Research has consistently shown that doctors are more likely to diagnose women with mental illness than they are to apply the same diagnosis to men.

Because doctors are aware that mental illness is more common among women, they may also be more eager to diagnose mental illness. In men, doctors may be more likely to misdiagnose symptoms like anger or physical pain.