Healthcare Insider Blog

Gender differences and behavioral health

  • Healthcare Alvernia

The correlation between gender and risks for certain mental disorders has been widely studied.

For example, one study published in American Psychological Association’s Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression, while men tend toward substance abuse or antisocial behaviors.

Women are also more likely to internalize emotions, leading to withdrawal, loneliness and depression, according to the same study. Men, meanwhile, are more likely to externalize emotions and therefore show aggressive, impulsive, coercive and noncompliant behavior.

Researchers have also looked at gender differences in physiological responses to alcohol. According to Dual Diagnosis website article, “Gender Specific Issues in Working With Women: A Holistic Approach,” women develop detrimental health effects from the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs during a shorter period of time and at lower consumption than men. This results in women entering substance abuse treatment at the same ages as men but with shorter histories of substance abuse and more severe health issues. Alcoholic women tend to seek help from healthcare professionals rather than substance abuse programs because of the stigma attached to female alcoholism, the article says.

Just as men and women react differently to alcohol, they also react different to the trauma brought on by military conflict. Recent wars and conflicts have brought posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the forefront because of the large number of military personnel and veterans diagnosed with the disorder. PTSD develops after a terrifying event that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The Dual Diagnosis article sheds light on gender and PTSD, saying that although men are at a greater risk of exposure to traumatic events, women are more likely to develop PTSD after being exposed to traumatic events.

Gender differences in behavioral health are tied to risk factors such as gender-based roles, stressors and live events, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) article. Risk factors for common disorders that disproportionately affect women include gender-based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage, low income and income inequality, low or subordinate social status and rank and unremitting responsibility for the care of others, the article says.

Research on gender and mental health support the need for population-focused behavioral health programs and treatment. Behavioral health classes like BH411 Counseling Special Populations teach students to understand the unique differences not just among genders but other specific groups.

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