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Women who experience sexism are more likely to be depressed
Photography by Claudio Schwarz, via Unsplash

Women who experience sexism are more likely to be depressed

A new study has found a link between gender discrimination and mental illness

Living in a patriarchal society is exhausting, so it’s unsurprising that a new study has found that women who experience sexism are three times more likely to be depressed than those who don’t.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) analysed data from 2,956 women over the age of 16 who were questioned for the UK Household Longitudinal Study in 2009 and 2010. 

Participants were asked about their experiences of discrimination over the past year – whether they’d felt unsafe, been called names, threatened, or physically attacked. The women were then questioned about the motives behind the harassment, as well as quizzed about the state of their mental health.

The study found that respondents who believed they were discriminated against because of their gender were 26 per cent more likely to report experiencing psychological distress, as well as being prone to depression.

Women reported that sexual harassment typically occured on the street (77 per cent), on public transport (40 per cent), and at train or bus stations (39 per cent). Men were excluded from the analysis because only a small percentage reported experiencing sexism.

“Sexism may serve as a barrier to healthier lifestyles that promote mental wellbeing,” the study’s co-author Ruth Hackett explained. She also said that the UK needs to “catch up with other European countries where street harassment is already illegal”. 

A second co-author Sarah Jackson said the findings “underscore the importance of tackling sexism not only as a moral problem but one that may have a lasting legacy on mental health”. 

With sexual abuse rampant in UK further education, and men underestimating how much women are being sexually harassed, studies like these are important in raising awareness of the prevalence of gender discrimination, and hopefully working towards finding a solution – one that doesn’t ask women to change their behaviour.