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Chartbook on Women and Disability

Section 5: Mental disorders and disability: Gender differences

5.1. Are women more likely than men to experience a mental or psychiatric disorder?

The National Comorbidity Survey, conducted in 1990-92, estimated that nearly half (47.3%) of all women between the ages of 15 and 54 have experienced a psychiatric disorder at some point in their lives. Lifetime prevalence rates for any psychiatric disorder were similar for men (48.7%). However, women more often suffered a depressive disorder (23.9% of women; 14.7% of men) or anxiety disorder (30.5% of women; 19.2% of men). In contrast, substance abuse disorders affect more men (17.9% of women; 35.4% of men). Women were more likely to have experienced three or more psychiatric disorders in a lifetime (16% of women; 13% of men: National Center for Health Statistics, 1996). National and international studies found that women experience more years of disability due to depression, while men experience more alcohol-related disability (Murray & Lopez, 1997; Rhodes & Goering, 1997).

Estimating prevalence rates for mental disorders during a one-year period, the Epidemiological Catchment Area Survey found that 51.3 million people or 28.1% of adults had a mental disorder in 1990 (Bourdon, Rae, Narrow, Mandersheid, & Regier, 1994). About 5 million people, (2.8% of adults) experienced severe mental disorders (National Advisory Mental Health Council, 1993).

Rates of depressive and anxiety disorders are higher for women, while men experience more substance abuse disorders.

Vertical bar chart. Go to Data Table for Figure 22 for the data values shown in this chart.

Figure 22: Lifetime prevalence of certain types of psychiatric disorders, by gender

Data Table for Figure 22

Sources: National Center for Health Statistics (1996); Kessler, McGonagle, Zhao, et al. (1994)

Surveys: National Comorbidity Survey, 1990-92

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