Social Circumstances, Women and Depression
We sometimes fall into the trap, myself included, of addressing single aspects of depression to the exclusion of others. It’s unavoidable in blogs and that’s why a well-rounded and coherent book is so much more informative. Sometimes however a post merely reflects a strand of interest and sometimes it reflects some personal bias. I’ve noticed, for example, that many of my posts are about the medical and psychological aspects of depression and related research. I’ve previously focused on men and depression, in part because of my interest in men’s health and the relative lack of related information. There is, of course, a lot more besides.
The causes of depression are varied. Most experts agree that depression has biological, psychological and social dimensions. Depression sometimes seems to be a fusion of all three and if the person has the right kind of treatment and support all three can be addressed. Social aspects, or more accurately (in my view) psychosocial aspects of depression, are diverse and it is often difficult to get a full appreciation of how personal circumstances influence mood. We do however have something of a picture available to us as to how men and women differ according to their circumstances. Many of what follows are generalizations but I thought I’d share a few in this post, focusing on women. As ever, I encourage you to expand the post with your own valuable comments and experiences.
All of us will recognize situations where inadequate support leads to frustration. This can lead to a downward spiral of stress and depression, or it may be the trigger for other mental illnesses. So what do we know about the effects on women of such situations?
Well, various studies point out that women in unstable circumstances or unhappy marriages are likely to become deeply despondent and this increases in likelihood in situations where the woman maintains a heavy workload. Women also appear to make more effort in offering support, understanding, and trying reconcile areas of personal difficulty or conflict than men and this is an investment in time and energy.
Women are sometimes very tired, sleep deprived and don’t spend time looking after themselves - psychologically that is. Sleep, health and depression are associated and while many men use spare time to relax after work, women may find themselves in situations of cooking, cleaning, shopping and perhaps caring for others having already put in a full shift of work.
I’ve just begun to scratch the surface in this post and there’s a lot more I should consider in terms of work, personal relationships, parenting and so on. For today however I’ll sign off with the interesting fact that the mental health of many women tends to improve when they are divorced or widowed. For many men such separations lead to social isolation and depression. I leave my fellow men to ponder!