Cover Image
close this bookFact sheet No 248: Women and Mental Health - June 2000 (WHO, 2000, 3 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentBackground
View the documentSignificant mental disorders and problems experienced by women
View the documentMental disorders
View the documentGender differences in mental disorders
View the documentPromoting women’s mental health
View the documentFurther Reading


In many under-served populations, women have considerable mental health needs. However, until recent years, the conception of women’s mental health has been limited as have attempts to protect and promote it. When women’s health issues have been addressed in these populations, activities have tended to focus on issues associated with reproduction - such as family planning and child-bearing - while women’s mental health has been relatively neglected (WHO, 1993; WHO, 1995).

Women are integral to all aspects of society. However, the multiple roles that they fulfill in society render them at greater risk of experiencing mental problems than others in the community. Women bear the burden of responsibility associated with being wives, mothers and carers of others. Increasingly, women are becoming an essential part of the labour force and in one-quarter to one-third of households they are the prime source of income (WHO, 1995).

In addition to the many pressures placed on women, they must contend with significant gender discrimination and the associated factors of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and overwork. An extreme but common expression of gender inequality is sexual and domestic violence perpetrated against women. These forms of socio-cultural violence contribute to the high prevalence of mental problems experienced by women.