Researchers say legislation could address issue after they find correlation between difference in earnings and health problems
The wage gap in the US could be making women ill, says a study showing women with lower incomes than their male counterparts are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
Women who make less money than men were four times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, , researchers at New York’s Columbia University found after comparing women and men with matching education and work experience.
Women earning less than their male counterparts were 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression.
When women’s income equalled or exceeded men’s, their odds of depression were similar and the probability of an anxiety disorder greatly decreased, the study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, found.
“Our results show that some of the gender disparities in depression and anxiety may be due to the effects of structural gender inequality in the workforce and beyond,” said Jonathan Platt, a doctoral student who is the study’s lead author.
Women in the US working full-time are paid 79c for every dollar paid to men, census bureau data shows.
The researchers looked at data from more than 22,000 working adults aged 30 to 65.
Katherine Keyes, an assistant professor at Columbia’s Mailman school of public health, who worked on the report, said the findings illustrated a need for legislation to tackle the enduring pay gap.
“Our findings suggest that policies must go beyond prohibiting overt gender discrimination like sexual harassment,” she said.
Such policies could include paid parental leave, affordable childcare and flexible work schedules.
Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington DC, said: “What the US really needs is a new law requiring employers … to compare the content of women’s and men’s jobs and develop a fair pay scale.”