Are gender and depression correlated?
Yes, they are.
Understanding what gender schema and depression is:
Schema refers to the cognitive process of creating mental structures that help humans interpret information easily. World views and stereotypes are two of the common schemata which clearly shows how mental structures help in easier, but inaccurate interpretation of information.
Gender schema is a cognitive theory proposed to understand how society "genders” humans. Through cultural norms and social roles, society lays and maintains psychological structures of gender. People are expected to conform to the "psychological gender” assigned to them through repeated reinforcement of gender schema.
How does our society create gender schema in our minds?
Through sex typing and stereotyping gender roles.
Imagine a teacher writing on a blackboard. Now, think of an architect reviewing a building design. If you pictured a female teacher and a male architect, like most people would unconsciously do, you are unwittingly sex typing people. Sex typing categorises certain attributes, activities or skills as suitable only for males or females. The perception that men do better in technical, managerial or financial roles than women is some of the common sex typing of professions.
Stereotyping gender roles is similar. People are expected to conform to the fixed roles set by the society for their genders. Myths such as "boys don’t cry” and "women can’t keep a secret” generalize all members of a particular gender into stereotypical gender roles, leaving no room for individuality.
How is gender schema related to depression?
A study by Polish psychologists in 2013 found that women suffer from depression twice as much as men. Shockingly, women who underwent sex typing faced a higher risk of being depressed than sex typed males. The risk for women stood at a staggering 31.33% whereas for men, it was just 4.5%. The risk for both men and women, if they were undifferentiated in terms of sex typing, did not reveal such differences. The same study also found that married working women suffered from depression more than married working men. Surprisingly, such differences did not occur between unmarried men and women.
The study clearly shows that when women do not conform to the "psychological gender” assigned to them by society, their identity and acceptance in society is put in jeopardy. This distresses their mental health, resulting in severe implications such as mood disorders and depression.
What can we do to help?
Gender schema is an acquired knowledge. Ideally, educational institutions, social and mass media content, parenting techniques and all the factors that can influence our perception of gender at an early age must avoid stereotyping and sex typing. Although, the smallest step you could take is to actively un-learn gender schema biases and encourage the same within your friends and family.
Let’s unlearn and relearn for the betterment of the mental health of our fellow humans!