Date of this Version
Hum, E.S., & Falci, C. (2016, August). Gender Differences in Social Support, Self-Salience, and Mental Health. Poster session presented at Summer Research Fair of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.
Men and women tend to manifest distinct mental health outcomes. Specifically, women report higher levels of internalizing symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, whereas men report higher levels externalizing symptoms, such as alcohol abuse (Rosenfield, S., Lennon, M. C., & White, H. R., 2005; Rosenfield, S., & Smith, D., 2010). However, it is unclear what mechanisms shape the gender differences in mental health outcomes. This research will explore two key possible mechanisms: social support and self-salience. Our aims in this study are to examine how and why mental health outcomes vary by gender? And also to what extent do social support and self-salience explain the gender differences in various mental health outcomes? We hypothesized that women will have more social support resources than men. Lower social support among men will further explain their higher externalizing symptoms compared to women. For self-salience, we expected that men will prioritize their own needs above other’s needs and have less permeable boundaries between their self and others. Furthermore, we hypothesized that differences in self-salience by gender will explain women’s higher internalizing symptoms compared to men. Based on The National, Health, Well-being and Perspectives Study survey data of 705 respondents, we found that women have higher social support (companionship and emotional support) compared to men, supporting the hypothesis. However, these differences only partially mediate men’s higher levels of externalizing symptoms. Results revealed that men are less likely than women to let other people's emotion and experiences affect their own. These differences also partially mediate women’s higher levels of internalizing symptoms. This research will help us better understand the processes leading to different mental health outcomes for men and women and provide insights into reducing mental health problems in the United States.