Mormon women deal with depression at higher levels because of the absurd demands placed on them by their faith and culture, right? Maybe not. Jana Riess over at Flunking Sainthood writes,
Overall, about a fifth of currently-identified Mormons say they have taken or are currently taking medication for depression—21%. The numbers are definitely higher for Mormon women than for men. 27% of women say yes, almost twice the number of Mormon men who do (14.5%).
…[But] the rate of Mormon women suffering from depression may actually be lower than the national average for women. The data on this is inconsistent, though; Timothy Heaton’s research has indeed found that “LDS women are significantly higher in depression than non-LDS women.” So there is no consensus here.
Second, there’s a known “gender gap” between men and women in the United States where mental health is concerned—and not just in Mormonism.
According to a publication of the Harvard Medical School, women “are about twice as likely as men to develop major depression,” based on a combination of genetic, hormonal, and emotional factors (and also the fact that even if men do develop depression,
they are idiots about itthey are less likely than women to seek the help they need). The World Health Organization has also found that depression is twice as common in women.
Bottom line, then: Mormon women appear to struggle more than Mormon men do with depression, or at least are getting treated for it nearly twice as often. This is not, however, an unusual or Mormon-specific gender dynamic.
But what are the factors that correlate with Mormon women who seek treatment?
- Age doesn’t matter much: younger women are a little more likely to get treatment than older women.
- Employment matters a little bit: unemployed women not looking for work–like stay-at-home moms–were a bit more likely to get treatment than full-timers and part-timers.
- Politics matters: Democrats are more likely to take medication than Republicans.
- Church activity matters: “very active” members are less likely to take medication than members who are “not active at all.”
- Beliefs matter: A quarter of women who believe “all or most Mormon teachings” compared to 1/3 of women “who doubt or find some Mormon teachings hard to believe.”
- Family size matters: “Women who have no children at all are a little more likely to take medication for depression than women who have one, two, or three children. In families of four or more children, women are also a bit more likely take medication. Overall, the women who were least likely to take medication for depression were those with one, two, or three children.”
- Divorce matters: “Women who were divorced were almost twice as likely as married women to have taken medication for depression (41% vs. 23%). Never-married women fall in the middle at 34%.”
As Riess concludes, “The reality is nuanced and complex.”