Scottish women suffer from poorer mental health than other surveyed group, according to results from the Scottish Government’s recent Scottish Health Survey (SHeS).
The SHeS provided statistics on topics from general health to alcohol consumption, with one of these being mental health and wellbeing.
The survey found that on average mental health scores have not changed significantly since 2008, as scores were between 49.7 and 50 on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale. The scores on this scale range from 14 to 70, with higher scores indicating a better mental wellbeing.
However the SHeS concluded that women as a subgroup were on the lower end of the scale compared to men, with 15 per cent of women reporting having two or more symptoms of anxiety compared to nine per cent of men.
Citizens between the ages of 16-24 reported the highest levels of self-harm, with a markedly high 23 per cent of women responding that they had self-harmed, in contrast with the survey’s reported 13 per cent of men who reported taking similar actions.
The SHeS revealed that levels of self-reported self-harm has increased from three per cent in 2008/2009 to seven per cent in the current edition.
Speaking to The Student, Chris Belous, the convener of Edinburgh University Students’ Association Women’s Liberation Group, said: “It’s quite saddening but also unfortunately not shocking that women in Scotland have poorer health than men according to this survey.”
Belous blamed the outcome of the study on “multiple gender-specific, sexist pressures which men tend not to [face], including [the] risk of sexual violence and unrealistic body image standards.
“These were just some factors which contribute to the poorer mental health of women”, Belous stated, “but the list is endless.”
Belous suggested some “practical steps” to support female wellbeing. She urged women everywhere “to challenge and end unrealistic body image standards […] through outreach in schools and later life.
“We also need to continue campaigning for better consent education […] [and] addressing and breaking down all forms of sexism, racism, classism, ableism, LGBT+phobia,” Belous told The Student.
“So much of mental illness can be attributed to societal and institutional oppression and we need to keep tackling this head on if anything is going to change.”
Belous also said she was disappointed to see that the survey did not include other subgroups such as race, sexuality, trans status and non-binary citizens.
Speaking to The Student, first year English Language and Literature student, Mariane Gallet, described her view on why it seems young women suffer from more mental issues than men.
“I think that [women] may have more issues concerning our personal health that we feel we need to undermine” Gallet said.
“This pressure that we feel is something that’s been institutionalised as normal when it is really not, but as a result we see it as normal rather than a problem.
“The many pressures of life and society on top of the pressures of university are what many think to be the cause of these issues for not only Scottish women, but many more people at university age.”
An anonymous Edinburgh fourth year female Scottish student spoke to The Student about mental health problems she has experienced at University.
“Even before year one, I was struggling with anxiety and depression. Being away from a routine I knew and from the people I grew up with made it harder for me to deal with my course load and the expectations of the University.
“I was initially unaware of what the University provided, but by browsing online I found the page on Mental Health and was able to register for free counselling sessions which then helped me find a more permanent counselling service here in Edinburgh,” she said.
Image: Giuseppe Milo