According to a new study published in APA’s Journal of Abnormal Psychology, researchers reveal that men and women have gender-based differences when it comes to mental illness: While men are more likely to be involved in substance abuse or antisocial disorders, women tend to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
The study examined the incidence of various mental illnesses in both genders and found that women with anxiety disorders were more predisposed to internalize emotions, resulting in loneliness, withdrawal, and depression; men on the contrary, externalize emotions leading to aggressive, impulsive, coercive, and noncompliant behavior.
The researchers demonstrated that incidence rates of many mental disorders varied across both genders due to differences in their tendencies to internalize and externalize.
Between 2001 and 2002, a National Institutes of Health survey collected data from 43,093 Americans in the age group of 18 and above who were residents and not institutionalized. The researchers analyzed these data for their study.
The study population comprised 57% women; 56.9% white; 19.3% Hispanics or Latinos; 19.1% African-Americans; 3.1% Asians, native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islanders; and 1.6% American Indians or native Alaskans.
Based on the 2000 census, the data was representative of the age, race/ethnicity, and gender distributions across the US population. The participants’ lifetime as well as 12-month mental health history was analyzed by researchers through interview questions directed at the participants.
Because “women ruminate more frequently than men, focusing repetitively on their negative emotions and problems rather than engaging in more active problem solving,” the authors referred to previous research which established that women suffer from depression more frequently than men do.
The study stated that the results would help establish gender-based prevention and treatment methods. Lead author Nicholas R. Eaton, MA, of the University of Minnesota said, “In women, treatment might focus on coping and cognitive skills to help prevent rumination from developing into clinically significant depression or anxiety. In men, treatment for impulsive behaviors might focus on rewarding planned actions and shaping aggressive tendencies into non-destructive behavior.”
Previous research also suggested that in contrast to men, women reveal more neuroticism and repeatedly stressful life events before the commencement of a disorder, implying that internalizing may also be caused by environmental stressors, says the report.