Depression in South Asian Women
Studies have shown that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men. This disparity remains constant across race and class. It is important to recognize that depression is not a sign of weakness or laziness. Depression is a very common condition. While studies on depression in the South Asian community are lacking, experts do know that one in five Americans are affected by depression at some point in their lives.
Different factors contributing to a higher incidence of depression in women than in men include:
Women are more likely to have hormonal fluctuations and imbalances throughout their lives, based on their menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause. Other issues related to pregnancy, such as miscarriage, unwanted pregnancy, and infertility can also influence a woman’s susceptibility to depression. In addition, postpartum depression (link to PPD page) is a specific type of depression that can occur after a woman has given birth.
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Social and Cultural Factors
- Responsibilities: Women are more likely to feel overwhelmed because of their family and household obligations. Particularly in the South Asian community, women are sometimes expected to work outside of the home as well as complete all of the tasks required to successfully run a household. They may not feel as if they can ask their husband or children for help, or pay someone to assist with tedious household work.
Depression is more common in women who are not able to get help with housework and childcare. Additionally, single mothers are three times more likely than married mothers to experience an episode of major depression. Women who are not single mothers but believe they are solely responsible for the household and childcare responsibilities can also be at a higher risk for depression.
- Roles: Women who feel a relative lack of power and control over their lives in comparison to men may feel helpless. They could have a sense of being powerless because they don’t have access to educational or employment opportunities they desire. This sense of helplessness or powerlessness may lead to depression.
- Pressures: Many women are brought up feeling they need to fulfill an impossible array of ideals simultaneously. They may expect themselves to achieve their own perfect version of multiple roles: daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, mother, friend, sister, and/or professional career woman. Intellectually, they may know that it is not possible to be perfect in all of these aspects of life, all the time; but they may still push themselves to a breaking point. Without balance, it is easy to reach a state of anxiety, stress and depression. Unfortunately, when women are anxious, stressed, or depressed, it is even more difficult to aspire to the women they want to be.
- Body Image: Women’s concerns about body image can also lead to depression.
- Abuse: Women are much more likely to experience abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. Any type of abuse—physical, verbal, sexual and other types—can influence chances of experiencing depression.
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