I don’t think there is an easy or politically correct way to say this (and I’ve tried), so I’m just going to come out and say it.
Women are more stressed out than men.
It’s not really a surprise, at least not to me. I have always thought this to be the case, and my humble opinion has recently been validated by the APA report, Stress in America. So why have I always believed this to be true? Is it because women are weaker than men and have a harder time coping with stress? Hardly. In fact, I doubt that anything could be further from the truth.
I have always been of the opinion that women are more stressed than men for the very simple reason that they have more to stress about. Let’s face it, in any relationship or partnership the responsibility of running and maintaining the household usually falls more heavily onto one side than the other. Back in the day, it was pretty cut and dried. One person stayed home and one person went out into the big, bad world and brought home the paycheck. Social roles and norms were pretty well-defined and everyone knew what was expected.
Fast forward to now and that model is blown to bits–has been for years, actually. In today’s world, the majority of couples need to work to support the home. It’s a simple fact of life. It is also a fact of life that while both partners are working outside the home, both do not usually contribute equally inside the home. And because old habits die hard, that role usually falls to the woman. Thus, she ends up with not just one full-time job but two, as has often been said. And you can’t really put off running the home, especially when kids need to be fed, laundry needs to be done, and homework is waiting to gobble up the evening hours. Some deadlines are just non-negotiable. This may be a generational issue as well, but women tend to be the predominant caregivers in most situations.
I’m not saying that men don’t stress out. On the contrary, they do. Interestingly, the major sources of stress remain the same for both men and women. Top causes of stress for both are money, work, and the economy. So if main sources of stress are the same for both sexes, why do women report that stress levels are on the rise while men report just the opposite?
It is not just because women who manage the home usually have more to deal with than the partner who focuses mainly on career. It is also because women are more aware of the effects of stress on their health. More women are likely to lay awake at night, overeat, or skip meals due to stress. Once you step onto that spiral, the effects will only get worse until you take action.
Because women are more aware of the effects of stress on their health, they tend to put more emphasis on achieving healthy lifestyles than men. However, while more women are concerned about making healthy changes, fewer are able to achieve it than men. Again, I believe it comes down to the fact that there tend to be more demands on a woman’s time than on her partner’s. In fact, the number of men who feel they are doing a good to excellent job of managing stress has been increasing over the last three years. Quite frankly, I think it is because they have more time to focus on it.
If women feel healthy lifestyle changes are strategic to managing stress and creating healthier, more fulfilling sense of well-being, why don’t they do something about it? Thirty-three percent of women surveyed report a lack of willpower and twenty-two percent state a lack of time as the main culprits for not following through with plans to create healthy living habits. Again, it comes down to the fact that those who manage a home and family as well as a career have more responsibilities to consider and will most likely put their own needs below those of their family and partner.
As a society, we are becoming more aware of the need to make fundamental changes to our lifestyles if we wish to live healthier, happier, longer lives. Making such changes is not easy, but it is possible. And when they set their minds to do it, I believe women have the upper hand over men. Why? Simple. Women are not afraid to reach out to their network and ask for help and support. Support–whether from friends, a group, or a professional–is vital to creating and sustaining any long-term behavioral shift. In fact, I would say that most people will fail without it.
So that is why I believe women are more stressed out than men. It is not actually a question of gender. It is more likely due to the dual role women assume inside and outside of the home. Since women are more likely to seek support or help from friends or professionals, this is not an impossible situation. However, a person will only be able to mitigate the effects of stress on their own life when they decide to take responsibility for their own behavior. At some point you have to put yourself first –make yourself the priority–in order to better support yourself and those who depend on you.
It’s not selfish. It’s necessary. And that has absolutely nothing to do with gender.