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Perceived gender discrimination linked to decline in wellbeing for older women

9.2% of the women reported perceived gender discrimination, most commonly situations where they were treated with less respect or courtesy. Overall, those who perceived gender discrimination also reported more depressive symptoms, more loneliness, and lower quality of life and life satisfaction.

Photo by Becca Tapert from Unsplash.com

Middle-aged and older women who believed they had encountered gender discrimination were more likely to report declines in wellbeing over time.

This is according to a study — “The relationship between gender discrimination and wellbeing in middle-aged and older women” by Ruth A. Hackett, Myra S. Hunter, and Sarah E. Jackson — that appeared in PLOS ONE.

Prior studies suggest that people who perceive that they have experienced gender discrimination are more likely to report poorer mental wellbeing. However, most studies have not examined wellbeing over time, or have focused on younger women.

To better understand this relationship among older women, this study analyzed data from 3,081 women enrolled in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), which follows a large group of people over 50 years of age. In 2010 or 2011, each woman answered questions about how often they encountered different discriminatory situations — such as being harassed or being treated with less respect or courtesy — and whether they attributed that discrimination to their gender or another characteristic, such as race or age. At two points in time, each woman also answered standard questionnaires for evaluating mental wellbeing; once in 2010 or 2011 and again in 2016 or 2017.

The findings suggest that perceived gender discrimination may be linked to declines in mental wellbeing for middle-aged and older women. For the researchers, therefore, there is a need for more efforts to address gender discrimination.

“We found that middle-aged and older women who perceived sexism were more likely to be depressed and lonely than women who did not perceive sexism. These women also reported low levels of life satisfaction and poor quality of life. The study findings are particularly concerning as they indicate an enduring impact of gender-based discrimination on mental health and wellbeing six years later,” stated the researchers.

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