“A survey of 6,616 Singaporeans and permanent residents showed that women in the younger age group (18 to 34 years old) are more than twice as likely as men to suffer from a major depressive disorder. Across all age groups, the study — which was published in the November issue of the Singapore Medical Journal and based on data gathered by the Singapore Mental Health Study conducted between December 2009 and December 2010 — found a 7.2 percent lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder among women, compared to 4.3 percent among men.”
To be honest, what surprised me the most about this study is the relative age of these women who suffer from depression. The age group of 18 to 34 years old is considered to be very young to be suffering from depression, be it men of women. One could question the validity of this research by personal experience alone, thinking back about what exactly one could be depressed about at the age of 20? However, when you put things into context, consider current social norms and the state of the younger generation, you wouldn’t put it past them to be depressed about something.
Our parents and grandparents grew up in a world that was not as easy as it is these days. The older generation worked hard from an early age, with the notion of a hard life in front of them as the pretext to shut up and keep on grinding. Kids these days are bubbled wrapped from the time they are born till their parents suddenly pull the rug from under their feet and they start to realise that life is not all a bed of roses. Boys learn this the hard way when they enter National Service. Suddenly all the things that their mothers or maids use to do for them get thrown out the window and they, at the age of 18 need to start and fend for themselves.
Girls are different. I’m not saying they are the weaker sex but their personal experiences are vastly different from the boys and maybe that shapes their mental strength or fortitude as they grow up. I’m not a doctor or expert on stress-related issues but from my own experience, with my then girlfriend and now wife, I can see the difference in our characters which might contribute to problems regarding stress. As a guy and with two younger brothers, my parents brought us up to be independent, my wife is the eldest and only daughter and her parents were rather protective of her growing up. It’s not a bad thing but I’m sure it plays a part in how we handle situations.
I think the young age, as reflected in the study, is directly related to other external factors such as marriage and motherhood. Many women get married in their twenties and become a mother before the age of 35. I married my wife when she was 24 but we only had our first child when she turned 30. This is commonplace for many Singaporean women and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. But I’ve seen my wife go through mild post-natal depression and thinking back, I can understand why the study claims that women are twice as likely to suffer depression than men. Women get pregnant and give birth, men don’t.
We need to understand that in today’s society, women still carry out the role of wife, mother, homemaker and career professional. The pressure to perform all these duties can weigh heavily on women and it’s not easy. Women who want to progress in their career but at the same time be the best mother possible, it is hard. It’s doable but not easy, and thus the added pressure, stress and potential depression. It’s easy to just conduct a study and conclude that women suffer from depression more than men. We need to do something to elevate the problem. We cannot just hope that women will magically become less stressed about their position and role in society.
Depression is a serious issue and we need to address it. If you know of someone that is depressed or starting to show signs of depression, get them help. Don’t wait.