Gender differences in mental illness


For a long time we have known that about twice the number of adult women, for every adult man, suffer from depression. When Young in Norway started, we knew little about why and when these gender differences occurred. Young in Norway was one of the first studies to gather information about this.

Gender differences in mental illness graph

The graph shows that boys and girls experience about the same level of mental illness in early adolescence. In the case of boys the level remains stable throughout adolescence and young adulthood – From the ages 13 to 31. In the case of the girls we see a completely different picture: Here we have a substantial increase in mental illness from about age 13 to about age 18, and a decline once in the twenties.

So what could be the cause of this increased difference during adolescence? We found that girls experienced an increased discontent with their own appearance, and that this led to more concerns for many girls. Girls that entered into puberty early ran an increased risk of mental illness.

In one’s twenties life tends to fall more into place, and we see the numbers for mental illness among women decline drastically. But what does the situation look like once in one’s forties? Has the picture in the case of men still remained as unchanged as it did through adolescence and young adulthood? And what about mental illness among women: has the decline seen in the twenties continued, or has there once again been an increase? These are some of the questions we wish to answer as we complete yet another round of the Youth in Norway study this fall.

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