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Sex Differences in Psychiatric Help-Seeking: Evidence from Four Large-Scale Surveys

Ronald C. Kessler, Roger L. Brown and Clifford L. Broman
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 22, No. 1 (Mar., 1981), pp. 49-64
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136367
Page Count: 16
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Sex Differences in Psychiatric Help-Seeking: Evidence from Four Large-Scale Surveys
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Abstract

There has been speculation that the high rates of psychiatric treatment for women in Western society reflect not only true morbidity but also a greater propensity among women than men to seek professional help for emotional problems. In this paper we present evidence from four large-scale surveys that documents this role of differential propensity. Although screening scales of psychiatric morbidity in all four surveys show women to have more emotional problems than men, there is also a consistent tendency for women to seek psychiatric help at a higher rate than men with comparable emotional problems. A decomposition of the help-seeking process into stages shows that this sex difference is largely due to the fact that women translate nonspecific feelings of distress into conscious recognition that they have an emotional problem more readily than men do. Evidence is presented that between 10% and 28% of the excess female psychiatric morbidity measured in treatment statistics could be due to this sex difference in problem recognition.

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