In a New York Times column published Thursday, physician Leonard Sax pointed out young girls tend to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders more often than their male peers. One reason? Young women are more likely to develop anxiety because of "how they feel about how they look," according to Sax, particularly on social media.
In his piece, Sax wrote that a combination of sexist social pressures on young women and the advent of social media has contributed to an anxiety gender gap of sorts. While studies show that young men actually tend to become more satisfied with their bodies in adolescence, he wrote, the opposite happens for young women, who are constantly judged on their appearance.
"Imagine another girl sitting in her bedroom, alone. She's scrolling through other girls' Instagram and Snapchat feeds," Sax wrote, describing a situation that's immediately familiar to most young women. "She sees Sonya showing off her new bikini; Sonya looks awesome. She sees Madison at a party, having a blast. ... And she thinks, 'I'm just sitting here in my bedroom, not doing anything. My life sucks.'"
Past studies have supported Sax's argument that young women are more prone to anxiety than young men. The National Institute of Mental Health reported an estimated 30% of young women between the ages of 13 and 18 have had anxiety disorders, compared to only around 20% of teenage boys.
The reasons for this disparity also aren't particularly surprising: Countless studies have showed that an alarming number of young women have body image issues, with one 2015 review suggesting 80% of 10-year-old American girls have been on a diet. Combine the horrifying rates of sexual harassment underage girls face with the potentially toxic impact of social media platforms like Instagram, and it's no wonder so many girls develop anxiety at an early age.
Sadly, the anxiety gender gap continues throughout young women's lives. From puberty to age 50, women are "twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder as a man," according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. While there are plenty of teenage girls fighting against these social pressures, until we acknowledge the fact that anxiety disorders are still largely a gendered experience, young girls will still face a daily battle for equal opportunity in every arena.
h/t New York Times