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Women at Greater Risk for Depression and Anxiety
Date:5/11/2009

New HHS Report Released During National Women's Health Week Points to Importance of Resiliency

WASHINGTON, May 11 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report released today on gender-based differences in mental health shows women are nearly twice as likely as men to suffer from major depression. The report addresses many other mental health issues facing women, including the effect trauma and violence can have on long term mental health, and outlines action steps for policy makers, healthcare professionals and researchers.

Action Steps for Improving Women's Mental Health, released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health (OWH), brings together the most recent research on mental health issues in women and explores the role gender plays in diagnosing, treating and coping with mental illness. It also points to resiliency and social support systems as key factors in overcoming mental illness. Other highlights include:

  • Rates of anxiety disorders are two to three times higher in women than men.
  • Having a history of violence, trauma or abuse is associated with increased risk of depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder and a tendency to engage in risky behaviors.
  • Female veterans may face a higher risk of PTSD than their male counterparts.
  • Family and other interpersonal connections in a woman's life may play an important role in building resiliency and offering protection from mental illness.

Acting Surgeon General Steven Galson, M.D., M.P.H., emphasizes, "Mental illness is often incorrectly perceived as a weakness, which prevents women from recognizing the signs and symptoms and seeking treatment. In order to reduce stigma, we need to encourage open, honest conversations."

The report also outlines specific action steps for policy makers, health care providers, and researchers to take in an effort to address the burden of mental illness on women's lives and increase their capacity for recovery. "We have an unprecedented opportunity to improve the mental health of women," says Dr. Wanda Jones, Director of the Office on Women's Health and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Our hope in releasing this report is that these groups will come together and turn these recommendations into action so that we better the health of our nation."

The Office on Women's Health also produced a booklet for women that addresses the stigma associated with mental health. Women's Mental Health: What It Means To You includes information on the signs and symptoms of mental illness, suggestions about where to turn for support and solutions for preventing and coping with mental illness.

Action Steps for Improving Women's Mental Health and Women's Mental Health: What It Means To You are available for free by visiting www.womenshealth.gov or by calling 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727).

Produced by OWH, the report was developed in collaboration with women's health and mental health experts from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Office of Minority Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Indian Health Service, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation and the Office of the Surgeon General.

National Women's Health Week, which kicked off on Mother's Day and will be celebrated until May 16, is a nationwide initiative coordinated by OWH to educate women about steps they can take to improve their health and reduce their risk for many diseases, including mental illness. In honor of National Women's Health Week, more than 1,000 events will take place across the country. For more information and to find an event in your community, visit www.womenshealth.gov/whw.

The Office on Women's Health (OWH) was established in 1991. OWH coordinates the efforts of all the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' agencies and offices involved in women's health. The office works to improve the health and well-being of women and girls in the United States through its programs, by educating health professionals and motivating behavior change in consumers through the dissemination of health information.


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SOURCE The Office on Women's Health
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