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September 08, 2008 

Mental Health News Briefs from the Journal of Health and Social Behavior

September issue reports findings on mental health and
household crowding, barriers to care, workplace dynamics and caregiving

WASHINGTON, DC — Mental health is the focus of a number of articles in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the quarterly journal of the American Sociological Association (ASA). The following briefs highlight selected sociological findings.

Women in Crowded Homes Are More Likely to Be Depressed than Men

Seeking to determine whether gender-specific responses to the stress of crowded living situations exist, sociologist Wendy Regoeczi of Cleveland State University examined data from a survey of Toronto residents and analyzed levels of depression, aggression and withdrawal among men and women.

Regoeczi found that women in crowded homes were more likely to be depressed than men, yet men reported higher levels of withdrawal than women. Some males in the survey responded to high-density living environments with both aggression and withdrawal.

Regoeczi theorizes that women may not be able to withdrawal from crowded living situations due to their relationship obligations and social roles, while men may be at greater liberty to evade others and may be able to do so through their jobs.

("Crowding in Context: An Examination of the Differential Responses of Men and Women to High-Density Living Environments," by Wendy C. Regoeczi, in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, September 2008)

White Men Attach Greater Stigma to Mental Health Care

Beyond financial and access barriers to mental health care, factors such as mistrust, perceptions of stigma and negative attitudes toward care can prevent people from seeking the help they need. The study, conducted by two National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellows in mental health care policy at Harvard Medical School, investigated the effect of gender, race and socioeconomic status on these psychosocial barriers to mental health care.

The findings suggest that non-Latino white males, compared to all women and men of other ethnicities, were most likely to mistrust the mental health care system and were also likely to perceive mental illness as a stigma and therefore avoid formal mental health care. Regardless of race and gender, those respondents with low income and low education were least likely to report negative attitudes towards care.

The study used data from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, focusing on adults who reported an unmet mental health care need. Study co-author Victoria Ojeda is currently an assistant professor at the University of California-San Diego, and her colleague Sara Bergstresser is a research scientist at the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research.

("Gender, Race-Ethnicity, and Psychosocial Barriers to Mental Health Care: An Examination of Perceptions and Attitudes among Adults Reporting Unmet Need," by Victoria D. Ojeda and Sara M. Bergstresser, in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, September 2008)

Boss' Gender Impacts Employee Stress Levels

Worker mental and physical well-being are influenced by gender in the workplace, according to a study that analyzed the impact of supervisor and subordinate gender on health.

Using data from a 2005 national survey of working adults in the United States, Scott Schieman and Taralyn McMullen of the University of Toronto reviewed the psychological distress levels and physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, fatigue) of workers who were managed by either two supervisors (one male, one female), one same-sex supervisor or one supervisor of a different sex.

The findings revealed that women working under a lone female supervisor reported more distress and physical symptoms than did women working for a male supervisor. Women who reported to a mixed-gender pair of supervisors indicated a higher level of distress and physical symptoms than their counterparts with one male manager.

The researchers also found that men working under a single supervisor had similar levels of distress regardless of their boss' gender. When supervised by two managers, one male and one female, men reported lower distress levels and fewer physical symptoms than men who worked for a lone male supervisor.

("Relational Demography in the Workplace and Health: An Analysis of Gender and the Subordinate-Superordinate Role-Set," by Scott Schieman and Taralyn McMullen, in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, September 2008)

Parenting Children with Disabilities Becomes Less Taxing with Time

Having a child with a disability takes a toll on parents' mental and physical health, yet new research suggests that, over time, parents learn to adapt to the challenges of caring for a disabled child. As these parents age, the study shows, their health more closely mirrors the health of parents with children who don't have disabilities.

The study, conducted by a team of sociologists and social work researchers from the University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the first to use a representative sample to systematically examine the effect of having children with developmental or mental health problems on parental well-being, comparing the sample to parents of children without disabilities.

Researchers analyzed data from the Study of Midlife in the United States to examine the effect of having disabled children on parental health; the extent to which the toll varies by parental age and gender; and the effect of disability-related factors on the well-being of parents of children with disabilities.

("Age and Gender Differences in the Well-Being of Midlife and Aging Parents with Children with Mental Health or Developmental Problems: Report of a National Study," by Jung-Hwa Ha, Jinkuk Hong, Marsha Mailick Seltzer, and Jan S. Greenberg, in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, September 2008)

Members of the media may contact Jackie Cooper, media relations officer at the American Sociological Association, at jcooper@asanet.org or (202) 247-9871, to request author interviews or copies of research published in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

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The Journal of Health and Social Behavior is the quarterly journal of the American Sociological Association.

About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.