Bias Worst Among Nairs, X'ians'
28 April, 2003
Gender disparity is minimal
within the Ezhava and Muslim communities while the role of gender disparity
in psychological stress is most pronounced among Nairs and Syrian Christians,
a study on gender and mental health in Kerala says.
The study, conducted jointly
by a team of psychologists and researchers, says that the role of gender
disparity in subjective well-being is highly significant among labourers
and farmers and that for a man in Kerala, it is less distressing to
remain jobless than be a farmer. Among women, subject well-being is
highest among students while among men, it is the highest among Government
employees. Male government employees have 20 per cent less distress
than even students and farmer men and women labourers have the worst
levels of subjective well-being.
The study, done by E. Mohamed,
president, Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists, S. Irudayarajan,
Fellow, Centre for Development Studies, K. Anil Kumar, president, Indian
Association of Clinical Psychologists, Kerala branch, and P.M Saidu
Mohammed, a consultant psychiatrist, says that subjective well-being
showed definitive improvement with education in the case of both men
and women and that men consistently have a better sense of subjective
well-being across different education levels. Illiterate and barely
literate women have lower mental distress as compared to similarly placed
According to the study, male
members of female-headed families have significantly better well-being
than female members of female-headed families and men from female-headed
families reported better sense of well-being than men of male-headed
families. Women in female-headed families have the lowest mental health
compared to other combinations and no significant gender difference
exists in mental health within the male-headed families.
As age advances, subjective
well-being and mental health deteriorates for both genders; while the
process is steady for men, it fluctuates in the case of women. Well-being
improves for men beyond 55 years whereas it worsens for women. Subject
well-being is the lowest during 25-34 age period for women. Marriage
diminishes the sense of subjective well-being irrespective of gender.
Widows show the lowest subjective well-being while divorcees heave a
sigh of relief. Women experience greater mental stress across all marital
The study has also found
that women in male-headed households are the most orthodox in gender
ideology. Men of female-headed households have the most progressive
gender ideology, a high sense of well-being and better mental health.
Older women are more orthodox than younger women. Divorcee men hold
the most orthodox gender ideology. Education reduces disparity in gender
ideology. Majority of men in Kerala favour a more dominant status for
men and women readily accept the lower status as the norm.
According to the study, financial
problems stand as the highest stress factor for Keralites irrespective
of their gender, but males are more concerned about it than females.
Women are twice as concerned about addiction in the family and 10 times
more concerned about threat of aggression and violence. Twenty per cent
of women and 14 per cent of men have experienced violence and aggression
one time or the other.
Women ranked female-in-laws
as the prime source of physical and mental violence while men ranked
it only as the tenth source. Almost half of the married women in the
sample studied by the research team (48.28 per cent) cited female-in-law
as a cause.
Men ranked neighbours as
the prime source of violence. For women, husband causes more stress
than anybody else (54 per cent), but 19.5 per cent men cited wives as
a source of stress. For women, loneliness is the top most cause of stress,
other major factors being decision-making and handling of responsibilities.