Gender and anxiety in Nepal: the role of social support, stressful life events, and structural violence.
INTRODUCTION: Throughout the world, anxiety disorders are 1.5-2 times more prevalent among women than men but the reasons for this gender disparity remain elusive. Despite frequent attribution to cultural roles of men and women, data regarding gendered risk factors in non-Western settings are scant. AIMS: This study evaluated the role of gender as a moderator (effect modifier) of stressful life events (SLEs) and social support on the risk of anxiety in Nepal. A cross-sectional random sampling design was employed to recruit 316 persons in a rural community. The participants completed the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), Stressful Life Events Rating Scale (SLERS), and a measure of social support. RESULTS: The prevalence of anxiety differed by gender: 36.9% of women versus 20.4% of men endorsed anxiety symptoms above the validated cutoff for intervention (odds ratio [OR]= 2.3, 95% confidence interval [CI]= 1.4-3.8). The number of SLEs and levels of social support did not differ by gender, nor did gender moderate the relationship between SLEs and anxiety. Gender did moderate the relationship of social support with anxiety. Men who reported low social support had 3.5 times greater odds (95% CI = 1.4-10.7) of endorsing anxiety relative to men reporting high social support. Women exhibited no association of anxiety with social support. CONCLUSION: Women are at a greater risk of anxiety in Nepal. Social support moderates the risk of anxiety among men but not among women. Ethnography and mixed-methods research are needed to identify other forms of support that may be protective for women and such factors should be promoted in gender-focused mental health interventions.
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