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Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2011 Nov;46(11):1161-71. doi: 10.1007/s00127-010-0286-z. Epub 2010 Sep 19.

State-level women's status and psychiatric disorders among US women.

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Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Although greater gender equality at the state-level is associated with fewer depressive symptoms in women after controlling for individual-level confounders, the extent to which state-level women's status is related to psychiatric disorders in women and gender differences in psychopathology has never been examined. We examined these associations in the current report.


We used data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (n=34,653), a national probability sample of US adults. Respondents completed structured diagnostic assessments of DSM-IV psychiatric disorders. We used generalized estimating equations to examine associations between four state-level indicators of women's status (political participation, employment/earnings, social/economic autonomy, and reproductive rights) and odds of 12-month mood and anxiety disorders among women. We also tested whether women's status predicted the magnitude of gender differences in psychiatric disorders.


State-level political participation, employment/earnings, and social/economic autonomy were unrelated to odds of 12-month mood and anxiety disorders among women. However, the prevalence of major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder was lower in states where women have greater reproductive rights (OR 0.93-0.95), controlling for individual-level risk factors. None of the women's status indicators predicted gender differences in mood and anxiety disorder prevalence.


State-level women's status was largely unrelated to mood and anxiety disorders in women or to gender differences in these disorders. Investigation of social factors that play a role in shaping the distribution of individual-level risk factors that are associated with gender disparities in psychiatric disorders represents an important avenue for future research.

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