Study Led by Yale University Scholars Examines If Women Are Less Psychologically Resilient Than Men

After experiencing a major stressor, women are more likely than men to report signs of anxiety or other symptoms of distress. This has led some to conclude that women may be less psychologically resilient than men. However, a new study led by Sarah Lowe in the School of Public Health at Yale University analyzed stress in health care providers on the front lines of COVID-19. They found that gender differences in reported distress were not found when the presence of preexisting or concurrent stressors were taken into account.

In partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, the researchers surveyed more than 2,500 health care providers at the hospital during the first wave of COVID-19 infections in 2020. Although women were more likely than men to report symptoms of psychological distress (42 percent vs. 30 percent), this difference was no longer significant after taking into account preexisting and concurrent stressors, which are more often experienced by women.

The study found that women’s disproportionate employment in lower-status medical roles, higher levels of preexisting burnout, and greater pandemic-related work-life conflicts entirely accounted for higher levels of reported psychological distress — symptoms of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress.

“What we found was that women in general have greater ongoing life stress than men because of disparities in social position and psychosocial responsibilities, such as caretaking for loved ones,” Dr. Lowe said. “And this is what accounted for greater reports of distress for women than men.”

The full study, “Are Women Less Psychologically Resilient Than Men? Background Stressors Underlying Gender Differences in Reports of Stress-Related Psychological Sequelae,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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