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Sexism is Bad for Women’s Mental Health

Newsflash: Sexism isn’t just bad, it’s bad for women’s mental health. A new study finds that women who experience sexism are three times more likely to experience depression. So catcalls, the gender pay gap, and restrictive gender roles seriously impact women’s well-being. 

The study, conducted by researchers at University College London, surveyed nearly 3,000 women over the age of sixteen about experiences of gender discrimination and their emotional response to those acts. Nearly 20% of respondents felt they were discriminated against based on their gender in the previous year– mostly street harassment on or near public transportation. Women described these incidents as “unsafe, being called names, threatened, or physically attacked,” and many women said that they avoided certain locations because of their gender. Women who reported at least one act of gender-based harassment or discrimination in the past year were 26% more likely to report psychological distress and depression. 

Researcher Sarah Jackson points out that this research finding “underscores the importance of tackling sexism not only as a moral problem but one that may have a lasting legacy on mental health.” The cumulative effects of gender discrimination can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. 

Another study published earlier this year in Australia examined the link between sexism in the workplace and women’s mental health and well-being. Researchers found that experiencing sexism in the workplace “reduces [a] sense of belonging because it represents a form of bullying, rejection, and ostracism by men against their female co-workers. This reduced sense of belonging then impacts negatively on women’s mental health and job satisfaction due [to] its association with feelings of loneliness and alienation.”

While “women’s issues” remain mostly absent in recent political debates (c’mon, it’s 2019 people!) and many men continue to dismiss the experiences of women, sexism is a real, systemic problem with effects on women’s emotional well-being. There is also evidence that women experience cumulative trauma from gender-based discrimination over their lifetimes.

Take Action! If you or someone you love is seeking mental health support, visit the National Alliance for Mental Health website. If you are an ally of women and gender non-binary individuals, speak out against everyday sexism and workplace sexism for the wellness of your family and community.