Discussion: Gender, Stress, and Mental Health
Whether you are male or female, you no doubt face some level of stress in your life. Even good things that happen, such as marriage, a job promotion, a move to a new home, or birth of a baby, can be stressful. People deal with stress in different ways. Some handle life stressors in positive and healthy ways, while others allow stressors to impact their health. The damaging effects of stress have been shown to be a potential factor in cardiovascular disease, cancer, hypertension, and numerous other issues. In addition, there are many stress-related mental health problems, such as depression, suicide, anxiety, and substance abuse that can be in part related to stress and the ability to deal effectively with stress.
Life’s stressors can be very different for men and women. Men experience different stresses in life and often deal with stress differently than women do. For example, men and women have different roles and expectations from others placed on them. Men and women experience violence, both as children and as adults, at different rates, which has been shown to be a significant factor in serious mental health problems and ongoing stress. Men and women experience discrimination differently, which adds to stress, especially in the workplace. Women tend to be in poverty more often than men, which is a significant factor in stress, depression, and anxiety. These are only a few examples where research suggests that the stress factors for men and women are different.
Other factors contribute to stress and resulting health problems and can be different for men and women. For example, women typically develop stronger support systems than men do as adults, which has been show to improve the ability to deal with stress. Men may perceive themselves as having more power over those things that cause them stress than women do. Power often impacts how one copes with stress. And though men and women often have families as their support system, women tend to take on the role of the family caretaker, which can be a significant stressor. It may also be that men and women react to stressful situations differently, either because of personal traits or because of how they have been socialized. Some research suggests that women tend to respond to stress with more emotion, while men may respond to stress with more problem-solving behaviors.
To prepare for this Discussion:
- Review Chapter 14 in the course text, Gender: Psychological Perspectives. Focus on the gender-related similarities and differences related to stress, coping, and the related mental health problems.
- Review the article, “Gender Roles and Traits in Stress and Health.”
- Think about specific stressful life situations, such as divorce, marriage, entering a new school, job changes or loss, dealing with sick family members or aging parents, the death of someone close, having a baby, etc. Consider some of the stressors specific to these situations.
- Select one stressful situation to focus on in this Discussion (e.g., divorce, marriage, a job change or loss, a sick family member or aging parent, a death in the family, etc.).
- Explore the topic of stress on the American Psychological Association website. Focus on stress issues related to the life situation you selected.
- Now think about how stressors may be different for men and women in general and specific to the situation you chose. How might men and women deal with the stressors differently? Why might there be differences?
With these thoughts in mind:
By Day 3
Post a brief description of a specific stressful life situation. Identify the specific stressors in this situation illustrating how some stressors may be different for men and women. Use specific examples when possible. Also, identify possible differences in how men and women may deal with these stressors and why this might be the case. Discuss the potential mental health disorders that might result.
Note: Put the stressful life situation you selected in the first line of your post. You will be asked to respond to a colleague who selected a different stressful life situation than you did.
Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.
Read a selection of your colleagues’ postings.