Factors affecting women

Major life events such as pregnancy, motherhood and menopause can create major stresses for some women. Negative life experiences such as poverty, discrimination, violence, unemployment and isolation can also impact on women's mental health and wellbeing. Gender roles and unequal economic and social relations between men and women in our community may also contribute to women's higher risk of depression. 

Some of the situations that can contribute to anxiety and depression in women include:

Supporting family members who are unwell or unable to look after themselves

Over half of the people who support a family member or friend in Australia are women. Women are also much more likely to provide the majority of help to a person with a disability. Supporting others can impact on a person's physical and mental health.

Separation

Women who are separated, divorced or widowed are more likely to have mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. Helpful strategies for women in this situation include talking to people about how they're feeling and asking for help when they need it.

Violence or abuse

For a woman to maintain good mental health and wellbeing, it's important for her to feel safe and respected in her relationships. Experiences of violence and assault as well as emotional, physical and sexual abuse have harmful effects on women. This can include depression and anxiety, drug and alcohol misuse, suicidal thoughts or attempts and post-traumatic stress. In these situations, it is important for women to remember that they are not responsible for the abusive behaviour of others.

Eating disorders

Women are more likely than men to experience anorexia or bulimia, which affect about two to three per cent of women in Australia. Eating disorders are mental health conditions that share many risk factors with depression. Many women who have an eating disorder will also experience depression and/or anxiety at some point in their lives. 

Same-sex attraction

Research in Australia and overseas shows that lesbian and bisexual women experience higher rates of anxiety and depression than heterosexual women. They are at greater risk of suicide and self-harm because they may experience discrimination, bullying and abuse. The risk of mental health problems is also compounded if they do not have family or community support.

Pregnancy (antenatal)

Up to 1 in 10 Australian women experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy. This can be a reaction to the pregnancy itself, associated health issues or other major life stresses.

Pregnancy, having a baby and becoming a mother (perinatal)

It's not uncommon for women to experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after the birth of a baby – postnatal depression is experienced by around 16 per cent of women during the first year after the birth. Adjusting to this major life change, as well as coping with the day-to-day stresses of motherhood, can make some women more likely to experience depression or anxiety at this time, particularly if they've experienced depression or anxiety in the past.

Menopause

Hormone changes in menopause do not cause depression, but seem to cause mood swings and irritability. This can make life difficult at a time when a woman may also be experiencing changes in her body. Women who experience surgical or early menopause can be at greater risk of depression.