30 Mar, 2022

An examination on why women experience higher stress levels than men

Stress levels are at an all-time high due to many external factors including the rising rates of unemployment, increased workload and demand, worker shortage and staff sickness, the rising cost of living, as well as global political situations, amongst many other contributing elements.


According to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) statistics, the “number of women experiencing work-related stress is 50% higher than for men of the same age”. The data also shows that women aged 35-54 are 50% more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in contrast to men. 

This finding can be contributed to many causes, but most likely it is the result of women trying to excel in various roles in their lives including being mothers, caregivers, employees, and homemakers. Women are trying to manage their home and work lives so they can provide their best for both, however, by doing so, they may put their health and well-being at risk. 

There are many more contributing factors to women experiencing much higher stress and anxiety levels, including:

1. Increased workload

As women are more likely to take on childcare responsibilities, they can miss out on important promotions and job experience which can set their careers back compared to their other colleagues. Workplace conditions have been steadily improving for all employees; however, many companies and businesses still do not offer flexible working hours that could fit around school times and childcare. Childcare, whether it is private day-care or after-school clubs, can be very expensive. Working long hours reduces quality time spent with family. Some workplaces do not have steady maternity (and paternity) leave policy and women (and men) deciding to take longer leave may lose a significant percentage of their monthly payments. Some women also experience different treatment at work such as getting paid lower for the same position with the same hours and responsibilities, as their other colleagues.

2. Traditional roles can still be persistent

Changes have taken place in the last few decades creating opportunities and additional pressures; women can have families and build successful careers. Societal roles and ideals still place huge pressure on women as they try to maintain society’s ideal image of a successful woman and mother. Women often get judged by their appearance, relationships, marital status, age, and quality of work. All these expectations and prejudices can lead to increased stress and anxiety levels which can result in low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and self-criticism. All these negative feelings can lead to mental and physical ill-health.

3. Impostor syndrome

Successful women tend to have some characteristics in common including a high criticism of self, perfectionism, and a strong need for approval. They can set up very high standards for themselves and when they fail to achieve these standards due to unexpected external factors, they tend to feel that they let their employer, colleagues, and their family down. This can lead to a feeling of not being good enough and becoming a burden to their workplace and their family. Many high-achieving women experience impostor syndrome which means that they don’t believe their success and achievements were the results of their hard work, skills, and diligence. Individuals experiencing impostor syndrome can also develop higher anxiety levels.

4. Fear of being judged

Women may feel frightened to talk about their issues because of the fear of being judged; of not being a good mother, a good partner, or a good employee/leader. They often try to hold all of these negative feelings inside until their stress levels become so high that everything boils over and they either experience burn-out or mental distress and crisis. Everyone deserves to be listened to and heard without being judged. This moral principle should be applied everywhere – not just in one’s private life, but also in the workplace.

It is time for a change; all leaders need to recognise the importance of employee well-being and foster a culture of care in their companies. Employers need to implement workplace policies and conditions that benefit all, not just a select few.

To find out more, visit these links:  mental healthanxiety