WOMEN
01/07/2016 04:33 pm ET

The Pay Gap May Contribute To Women's Anxiety And Depression

Yet another reason to hate it.
Andrew Bret Wallis via Getty Images

Academic studies can be fascinating ... and totally confusing. So we decided to strip away all of the scientific jargon and break them down for you

The Background

Previous studies have shown that depression and anxiety are more prevalent in women than in men. With that in mind, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health decided to explore whether the gender pay gap has an effect on a woman's mental health.

The Setup

Researchers analyzed information from 22,581 working adults who were 30 to 65 years old based on a nationally representative survey from 2001-2002. They then paired the men and women up based on factors related to their wages including occupation, industry and age. 

Researchers also determined whether participants had major depressive disorder (MDD) or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) using a "diagnostic interview for use by experienced interviewers without clinical training" from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

The Findings

In the pairs in which females made less money than their male counterparts, the odds of depression in women were more than twice as high as they were for men. In pairs in which females and males had equal incomes or where the female made more money, the odds of MDD were "non-significant."

Researchers found even more unsettling results when comparing the prevalence of anxiety. In pairs in which females made less money, the odds of GAD were more than four times as high for women. When women made more than their male counterparts, researchers found a "substantially reduced disparity."

The Takeaway

Based on this research, the gender pay gap is more than a difference in incomes between men and women and can have an effect on mental health. Or as Katherine Keyes, an author of the study, put it: "While it is commonly believed that gender differences in depression and anxiety are biologically rooted, these results suggest that such differences are much more socially constructed than previously thought, indicating that gender disparities in psychiatric disorders are malleable and arise from unfair treatment."

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