Mental Health & Wellbeing
Women are by no means all the same and women’s mental wellbeing is multi-faceted and diverse. However, some factors that impact on mental health may be experienced only by women. These include societal and cultural divisions of labour, maternity, social connectedness, depression or other psychological health issues and their causes, such as discrimination, violence and abuse. Diverse groups of women, which include women with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women who are from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and lesbian women, have specific needs and experiences that may impact on their mental health and wellbeing in different ways.
Some information abour women's mental health and wellbeing includes:
- Sex differences in mental health are pronounced, with women more likely to suffer poorer mental health than men.
- In a 2004-2005 survey, women were more likely to report a long-term mental of behavioural problem and higher levels of psychological distress than men.
- Depression in women is frequently accompanied by other mental health problems such as anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Postnatal depression is experienced by 10-15% of women after childbirth.
- Women are hospitalised more than men for self-harming injuries and young women aged 15-19 years are three times more likely to be admitted to hospital for self-harming than their male counterparts.
- Emotionally supportive relationships and social networks are more valuable for reducing the risk of major depression in women, than in men.
- Women’s mental health and wellbeing is adversely affected by gendered divisions of labour in the economy, the home and the community, and gender based expectations about roles, responsibilities and power relations.
- Depression is more common among people who are economically vulnerable or who live in poverty, and this is predominantly women and children.
- Other stressors unique to women include limited access to healthcare, education and occupation opportunities, exclusion from community participation, discrimination, such as cultural, racial and sexuality based, and subjection to violence and abuse,,.
Women with disabilities
- Women with disability related to trauma have been found to be at higher risk of depression than women without disability.
Women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds
- Women from CALD backgrounds who give birth have been found to be at higher risk than other women of pre-natal depression, particularly if they have migrated to an English-speaking country.
- General Practitioners (GPs) have been urged to take a key role in the detection, diagnosis and management of mental health issues for CALD persons. This is in light of cultural variations that may include CALD persons describing symptoms in terms of bodily problems rather than low mood or negative thoughts.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are twice as likely to report high or very high levels of psychological distress compared to non-Aboriginal women.
- When surveyed in 2005, two-thirds (66%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women reported low/moderate levels of psychological distress and 32% reported high/very high levels of psychological distress in the month before the survey.
Same-sex attracted women
- Lesbian women experience lower levels of sense of belonging than heterosexual women.
- Decreased sense of belonging is linked with depression, lower levels of self-esteem, self-worth and self-sufficiency. In lesbian women this can be largely attributed to sexual prejudice and homophobia.
 World Health Organisation (2005) Gender in Mental Health Research. Department of Gender, Women and Health Family and Community Health. Geneva: World Health Organisation.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2007) ‘Australian Self-harm Statistics – Key Findings’. Living is for everyone: suicide prevention in Australia.
 Kendler, K.S., Myers, J. & Prescott, C.A. (2005). Sex differences in the relationship between social support and risk for major depression: A longitudinal study of opposite sex twin pairs. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(2): 250-256
 Bishop, A. (2002) Depression and gender issues. In: A Gender Agenda: Planning for an Inclusive and Diverse Community. Footscray: Women’s Health West.
 Outram, S. Mishra, G. & Schofield, M (2004) Sociodemographic and health related factors associated with poor mental health in midlife Australian women. Women and Health 39(4): 97-115.
 McNair, R. Anderson, S. Mitchell, A. (2001). Addressing health inequalities in Victorian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 11(1), 643-645.
 McDermott, S., Moran, R. Platt, T. & Dasari, S. (2007) Health conditions among women with a disability. Journal of Women’s Health, 16(5): 713-720.
 Pal, C. & B. Wright, (2003) Multicultural Mental Health Australia. Viewed 13 May 2008, http://www.mmha.org.au/mmha-products/synergy/magazine-article-index/#Women's%20mental%20health
 Kiropoulos, L., Blashki, G. & S. Klimidis (2005) Managing mental illness in patients from CALD backgrounds. Australian Family Phsycian 34(4): 259-264.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007) The health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women: A snapshot, 2004-05. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, Cat. No. 4722.0.55.001. Viewed 18 February 2008, http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4722.0.55.001Main+Features12004-05?OpenDocument
 McLaren, S. (2006) The interrelations between sexual orientation, sense of belonging and dysphoria among Australian women. Women and Health 43(3): 123-137.