The impact of social overload on women’s mental health – 12/21/2022 – Saúde em Público


The end of the year arrives and it’s always the same rush to complete everything that was planned to be carried out in the period. Work issues to resolve, family events to organize, gifts to buy. Additionally, the heat waves that herald the arrival of summer and price inflation make these tasks even more tiring and stressful. We’ve heard several times that a healthy body is also a healthy mind, but in December this is a goal as difficult to achieve as starting a diet close to the get-togethers of the time. All this generates an overload, something that women know from a very early age and, not by chance, contributes to them being the ones who suffer the most from depression.

Physical and mental overload is identified as one of the main factors that make women especially vulnerable to psychological suffering. A study from Instituto Cactus, in partnership with Instituto Veredas, identified that, in women with high domestic burden, common mental disorders are present in 1 out of 2 women. The low quality of employment, with a predominance of informality, the temporary nature and the precariousness of the bonds, can also generate fear and anxiety, a scenario that can worsen when added to work at home, where women continue to be primarily responsible for managing the domestic chores and, still, reconciling with paid work. Irregular career patterns, time away from the labor market to care for children and work around the house, maternity leave, physical illnesses and mental health issues can affect the perception of women’s availability and commitment, on which they are based many hirings, leading to discrimination and exclusion from the labor market. In other words, leaving psychologically unscathed the condition of being a woman is an almost impossible mission.

The data confirm this reality. O Covitel, Telephone Survey of Risk Factors for Chronic Noncommunicable Diseases in Times of Pandemic, revealed that the diagnosis of depression among Brazilian men and women aged 18 years and over from the pre-pandemic period to the 1st quarter of 2022 increased by 41%, surpassing diabetes . The survey, developed by Vital Strategies, by the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel), by Umane and by the Ibirapitanga Institute, points out that the prevalence of depression among women was more than double the occurrence among men (18.8% against 7 .8%). Those diagnosed with depression consume more tobacco, have less healthy eating habits and practice less physical activity, habits known as risk predictors for chronic non-communicable diseases.

But the hole is deeper. The Covid-19 pandemic also not only evidenced the worsening of habits and risk factors for mental health. It has become more difficult to live in health while unemployment increases, hunger returns and sexism is perpetuated and encouraged. The political dimension of cultural values ​​such as these can be further aggravated with the creation of laws or government actions: the program to protect women has been progressively defunded, reaching an 83% reduction in the period from 2020 to 2023, according to data from the Institute of Studies for Health Policies (IEPS🇧🇷 The Casa da Mulher Brasileira, a public space that concentrates specialized and multidisciplinary services for assisting women in situations of violence, did not even execute its budget this year, despite being authorized.

To the same extent, to solve this problem, public policies can also be great allies, especially if they create specific processes and approaches for each public, for each woman, of all ages, genders and races. SUS is the main ally for this and some paths already exist, such as Primary Health Care. We are talking about the health center close to your house. Have you ever thought that you could find, close to you, health professionals who will welcome your suffering while checking your blood pressure?

The new year always comes. And after the rush with supper and the hidden friend, comes the concern with the IPVA, the daycare registration and the children’s school materials. Since the overload only changes its name, what we have left is to continue advocating for more funding for the SUS to reach more and more women who need shelter. Defend more careful looks at a reality that requires understanding of social, cultural and political dimensions. After all, talking about mental health is talking about health, education, social and even economic development. Women are important vectors of social change and wanting health for women to live longer and better means wanting a healthier society as a whole. That’s what we wish for 2023: health to give and sell!

Dayana Rosa is a public policy researcher at IEPS, public administrator and PhD in Collective Health from the Institute of Social Medicine at UERJ; Luciana Barrancos is an executive manager at Instituto Cactus, graduated in Law and Business Administration from FGV and with an MBA from Stanford; Luciana Vasconcelos Sardinha is Senior Manager of Chronic Noncommunicable Diseases at Vital Strategies Brasil; Raylayne Bessa is a public policy analyst at the IEPS, with a bachelor’s degree in Collective Health from the University of Brasília and a master’s degree from the Fiocruz School of Government.


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