Summary: Despite gains in freedom and employment opportunities, research indicates women are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression, and sleep issues than before. A survey suggests that dissatisfaction with societal treatment may be a key factor.
The gender wellbeing gap widened during the pandemic but showed that women rebound faster emotionally, possibly due to stronger social connections. While facing social inequality, women report higher levels of purpose in life, often derived from altruistic activities.
Women across different countries and age groups are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances despite societal advances.
The gender gap in well-being increased during the pandemic, but women showed greater emotional resilience, possibly due to stronger social networks.
Women generally report having more purpose in their lives compared to men, often attributed to engaging in more altruistic endeavors.
One of the factors that may contribute towards women’s resilience is social connection. In one 2019 study, researchers found that women scored higher than men for positive relationships with others as well as capacity for personal growth. In essence, women tend to be better than men at getting support. They ask for help sooner and so are more likely to overcome adversity quicker.
Women have also been found to place greater value on social connections than men. Studies have found that women’s friendships are more intimate – women favour face-to-face interactions that enable more self-disclosure and emotional support. Whereas men’s friendships tend to be more side by side, pursuing shared activities. Think catching up watching a football match versus catching up over coffee. Again this may explain the buffer to women’s mental health.
Happiness versus purpose
Although women may not be as happy in the moment as men and face greater social inequality, a recent study suggests that women report having more purpose in their lives. And having meaning and purpose in life is associated with better health and living longer.
The study found that women tend to engage in more altruistic endeavours, such as supporting others and charity volunteering which leads to a greater sense of meaning and purpose.
However, the researchers also point out that this is likely linked to cultural norms of women being encouraged to put the needs of others first. While putting others first does not necessarily make you happier, having a sense of meaning in life definitely contributes towards happiness.
Given all this, women need to make time for themselves to protect their wellbeing. Here are four evidence-based ways to help you do this:
Spending time outdoors in natural settings can be very comforting. A recent study found that nature-based interventions are particularly healing for women who have experienced trauma or illness . Indeed, as women, our biology and values often align with the natural world. The term “Mother Earth” reflects the feminine tendency to be life-giving and nurturing.
So make sure you factor some time outside in nature into your daily or weekly plans. A walk on the beach, a run through the woods or reading a book in the park, it all helps.
Given that women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety, reducing or eliminating alcohol may be sensible. Indeed, research shows quitting alcohol can significantly improve women’s health and happiness.