New research suggests that higher levels of mood disorders among women in the workplace may be more environmental than biological.
Paying a woman less than a man to do the same job is not only inherently unfair, it could also be fueling higher rates of depression and anxiety disorders in women.
That was the finding of a recent study by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, which was based on data from more than 22,581 working adults from 30 to 65 years old. The study was published in the journal Social Science & Research.
In general, women are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from generalized anxiety disorder than men. But the study found that women were four times more likely than men to have anxiety when they were paid less than their male counterparts, though they were equally matched on education and work experience.
However, if a woman earned the same salary or more than her male colleague, her odds of anxiety disorder were greatly decreased.
Similar results were found for depression. Although women are nearly twice as likely as men to have depression, when a gender pay gap was a factor, women were 2.5 times more likely to suffer major depression. When pay was equal or women earned more, the study found that men and women had the same odds of suffering from depression.
“The social processes that sort women into certain jobs, compensate them less than equivalent male counterparts, and create gender disparities in domestic labor have material and psychosocial consequences,” Jonathan Platt, a doctoral student in Columbia’s Department of Epidemiology and one of the paper’s authors, said in a statement. “If women internalize these negative experiences as reflective of inferior merit, rather than the result of discrimination, they may be at increased risk for depression and anxiety disorders.”
Women earn about 78 cents for every dollar men earn.
“[W]hile it is commonly believed that gender differences in depression and anxiety are biologically rooted, these results suggest that such differences are much more socially constructed than previously thought, indicating that gender disparities in psychiatric disorders are malleable and arise from unfair treatment,” said Katherine Keyes, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology and senior study author.
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