Gender and Mental Health

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Abstract

Men and women experience different kinds of mental health problems. While women exceed men in internalizing disorders such as depression and anxiety, men exhibit more externalizing disorders such as substance abuse and antisocial behavior, which are problematic for others. These differences also vary by race and social class: for example, African Americans possess better mental health and, thus, a smaller gender gap in psychiatric problems. What explains these differences? We concentrate on conceptions of gender and gender practices. Research on gender and mental health suggests that conceptions of masculinity and femininity affect major risk factors for internalizing and externalizing problems, including the stressors men and women are exposed to, the coping strategies they use, the social relationships they engage in, and the personal resources and vulnerabilities they develop. This chapter investigates explanations in these areas for gender differences both in general and by race and class.