Women’s Empowerment and Generalized Anxiety in Minya, Egypt


Yount, Kathryn M., Sally Dijkerman, Sarah Zureick-Brown, and Kristin E. VanderEnde. 2014. “Women’s Empowerment and Generalized Anxiety in Minya, Egypt.” Social Science & Medicine 106 (April): 185–93. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.01.022.

Authors: Kathryn M. Yount, Sally Dijkerman, Sarah Zureick-Brown, Kristin E. VanderEnde


Gender disparities in mental health are global, with women experiencing higher rates than men of anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and attempted suicide. Women's low social status may partly explain these disparities, yet evidence from Arab and Middle Eastern settings is limited. We assessed whether women's empowerment – or acquisition of enabling resources, and in turn, enhanced agency – was associated with their lower generalized anxiety. For 539 ever-married women 22–65 years who participated in the 2005 Egypt Demographic Health Survey (EDHS) and a 2012 follow-up survey in rural Minya, we estimated linear reduced-form and mediation regression models to assess the associations of women's premarital enabling resources with their generalized anxiety in 2012, overall and through measures of their marital agency in 2005. Women's higher schooling attainment, premarital economic activity, later age at first marriage, and greater proximity to natal (or birth) family had significant, adjusted associations with lower generalized anxiety. Measures of women's agency in marriage had mixed associations with generalized anxiety, but their inclusion modestly reduced the coefficients for premarital resources. Parallel qualitative findings confirmed nuanced associations between women's exclusive decision-making and their mental health. Efforts to enhance women's education and premarital economic activity might be combined with efforts to delay first marriage and ensure women's extra-marital social support to maximize their empowerment and its mental-health benefits.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women Regions: Africa, North Africa Countries: Egypt

Year: 2014

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