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We have already alluded to the fact that the rates of diagnosis by the healthcare professionals tend to underestimate the true incidence of psychiatric morbidity in the community.
This consideration then begs the question, “just what are the gender specific different factors that determine mental health or the susceptibility to mental illness?
” We have already suggested that many factors are not purely biological, and a number of different papers point to the fact that many of the triggers and stressor factors which can be associated with mental illness, are also gender specific.
The gender based role in a particular society ( certainly in the UK), will produce different exposure to different stressors and negative life experiences.
Equally it will give different exposure to the protective effect of a positive life experience.
In doing so, we recognise the fact that it is vital to make a critical assessment of the literature as, in any branch of medically related work, it is vital to acquire a firm evidence base. Much of the literature that we have assessed for consideration amounts to little more than simple opinion on a subject, and as such, is only of use as an opinion rather than a fact that has been subject to proper scientific scrutiny. In this essay we take note of opinions but aim to present verifiable facts.
We do know that mental illness in the UK is associated with a significant burden of both disability and morbidity in general, and this will vary with both the severity of the illness at any given time and also the nature of the illness itself. A number of studies have shown that, as a lifetime experience, nearly half of the population will suffer some kind of quantifiable psychological or psychiatric disorder.This, in turn, determines both their susceptibility, and indeed their exposure, to significant mental health risks.(Busfield J 1996) We have already alluded, in passing, to the differential incidence of various illnesses.(Kaplan HI et al 1991) It is also a demonstrable fact that the degree of morbidity rises exponentially with multiple degrees of comorbidity.In studies on the subject, women outnumber men in this area as well.(Pattison 2001) Gender has much deeper socio-economic and cultural implications than simply a sexual consideration.It is gender that is one of the prime determinants of the differential power and status factors that influence the degree of control that both men and women have over their socio-economic situation and social position in their own cultural hierarchy.In many societies this is also translated into lower social status that the male and this is often also associated with fewer social freedoms - all of which may be associated with an increasing psychological co-morbidity.(Gordon G et al 2001) There is also the consideration that in the majority of cultures, it is the woman who typically bears the major impact of care in the family, not only of the children, but also of the elderly relatives, and this frequently produces constant and unremitting levels of stress, which again, is recognised as a major trigger for psychological morbidity.Women and mental health is a vast topic and we do not presume to cover all aspects of it within the confines of this essay.We will, however, explore a number of relevant themes in some detail by particular reference to peer reviewed literature on the subject.