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Is women’s mental health more susceptible than men’s to the influence of surrounding stress?

  • Inger Sandanger
  • Jan F. Nygård
  • Tom Sørensen
  • Torbjørn Moum
ORIGINAL PAPER

Abstract.

Background:

Most epidemiological population studies have demonstrated that women suffer more anxiety and depression than men. A higher level of stress, greater vulnerability to stress, and a non-additive effect of private/domestic and occupational obligations on women have been suggested as an explanation.

Objective:

The objective of this study was to examine if women’s mental health is more susceptible than men’s to the influence of surrounding stress.

Material and method:

A cross-sectional, random sample of the population resulted in 651 men and 626 women, all of whom were employed, participating in the study. Participants were interviewed using face-to-face standardized questionnaires.

Results:

Younger women experienced more stressful relationship events, illness events and network events than men of the same age. Relationship events were more important for men as they grew older, and interacted with other stress to increase anxiety and depression symptoms. Stressful illness events were more strongly related to anxiety/depression symptoms in women over 40 than in men of the same age, and interacted with work stress to increase symptom scores.

Conclusion:

Stress was more strongly related to symptoms in women, suggesting that they may have a greater susceptibility to surrounding stress, and to somatic illness stress. This might contribute to the sex difference in psychiatric illness.

Key words

depression anxiety sex life event stress work stress 

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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Inger Sandanger
    • 1
  • Jan F. Nygård
    • 1
  • Tom Sørensen
    • 2
  • Torbjørn Moum
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Behavioural Sciences in MedicineUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Institute group of psychiatryUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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