Impact of sexism on young women’s mental health

This study shows a clear link between sexism and young women’s mental ill health including long-term impact, and therefore the urgent need to tackle sexism in all its forms and locations from the earliest point possible.

We found young women who experience sexism are five times more likely to suffer from clinical depression. The higher rate of mental ill health compares to those who said they had not experienced sexism.

In my personal experience, I have struggled with both stress and anxiety in part as a result of the sexism I experienced within the workplace. I dreaded going to work every morning, and it took its toll on both my mental and physical health, and I became a shell of the person I once was.

Young woman

This report also calls on society and government to recognise and take seriously the impact sexism – including being attacked or threatened because of your sex –  is having on young women in the UK,  and to fully fund educational and other support services to help build a future free from violence and abuse.

The 16 to 30 age group is most likely to experience sexism at school, work, on public transport, in taxis and outside of the home – and at higher rates than other ages, with 82% of those who had experienced sexism saying they had been subjected to street harassment.

Those women aged 16 to 30 who had experienced sexism – including attacks or threats –  reported greater psychological distress even four years later, indicating the devastating impact on mental health over time, particularly for young women.

Young Women’s Trust worked with Dr Ruth Hackett from University College London (UCL) on the study, and sexism was defined in the survey as feeling unsafe, avoiding going to/being in a setting, being insulted and/or threatened, or being physically attacked because of sex.

The report, which surveyed 2995 16 to 93 year olds including 1,041 16 to 30 year olds, combines analysis of a large UK dataset with first-hand experiences and views from young women.

Sexism sits in the core of you and if you try and ignore it and don’t address it, it rots away and the problems permeate to other areas of your life.

Young woman