International Women’s Day: tackling gender and mental health

International Women's Day: tackling gender and mental health

This year’s International Women’s Day (8 March) coincides with European Parliament discussions on a proposed directive on work-life balance for parents and carers, which poses an opportunity for the European Union to act in favour of gender equality and health.

The directive has been developed through the newly adopted European Pillar of Social Rights and has the potential to improve the lives and mental health of Europeans, as well as helping to move towards a fairer European society which promotes gender equality – a great victory for International Women’s Day.

If this directive is adopted then it would allow better opportunities for the sharing of care responsibilities, all of which are predominantly carried out by women.

Depression and anxiety

Research has shown that women are twice as likely to experience depression and anxiety as men and are also more likely to describe their overall health as poor.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises that mental health is affiliated with gender since it determines the “differential power and control men and women have over the socioeconomic determinants of their mental health and lives, their social position, status and treatment in society and their susceptibility and exposure to specific mental health risks.”

Maria Nyman, director of Mental Health Europe, said: “Each of us may experience mental distress for our own unique reasons, but women are more likely than men to experience stress, and unequal sharing of care responsibilities is very common: that’s why work-life balance measures can really make a difference for mental health and gender equality.”

The importance of a work-life balance

On International Women’s Day, Mental Health Europe, EuroHealthNet and the European Public Health Alliance will call for the recognition of the important role that work-life balance can play in positive mental health and achieving gender equality.

It will also call for the European Commission to turn the proposed directive on work-life balance for parents and carers into law as soon as possible.

The European Pillar of Social Rights should be an ideal opportunity for the EU to facilitate gender equality and positive mental health for all.

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