Saturday 2 December 2023

Women almost triple men in demand for medical attention due to stress

Double working day, being heads of household, economic crisis and cultural and emotional burdens explain the phenomenon. Last year more than 71,000 went to the External Consultation and Emergencies.

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QCOSTARICA – High levels of stress affect men and women to the point of being considered the new epidemic of the 21st century; however, in Costa Rica this phenomenon hits the female population hardest.

Costa Rica’s patriarchal society also places many more responsibilities and demands on women’s shoulders

The numbers speak for themselves. Last year,  due to stress, 71,341 women visited the Consulta Externa y Urgencias de la Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) – External Consultation and Emergencies of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, almost three times the 25,907 medical visits by men.

This is a trend for the last three years, according to medical authorities.

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Last year a total of 64,559 women were treated in outpatient clinics, while in 2021 and 2020 there were 76,030 and 58,395 cases, respectively, who are single, married, heads of household, laborers and professionals, a challenge for each of them to combine roles, so it should not be surprising that they lead the list of patients with stress symptoms.

“What is stress? In simple terms, it is a state that implies bodily tension and emotional discomfort, which usually appears when an individual feels overloaded by life pressures or by situations,” said Alonso Madrigal, psychologist at Censac Red, a health and professional training in Heredia.

In general, the person has episodes of anxiety, insomnia, tiredness and in some cases stomach and muscle pain, among other symptoms.

Each case must be seen in a particular way, but it is clear that there are social factors that affect women more, since they have more emotional and functional overload than men, especially in terms of caring for the home and children, Madrigal added.

The same opinion was held by Francisco Golcher, president of the Costa Rican Association of Psychiatry, who believes that living in a patriarchal society, women express feelings more than men, and therefore seek professional help.

“Precisely, that same patriarchal society also places many more responsibilities and demands on women’s shoulders; at the same time that he deprives them of their own voice based on a position of subordination that is expected of them,” stressed Dr. Rebeca Murillo, from the Hospital Nacional de la Salud Mental (National Mental Health Hospital).

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Murillo added that women face double and triple shifts in paid work and domestic and care work.

At a collective level, it is perceived, wrongly, that women have greater responses or emotional burdens

Just by way of example, the percentage of women who remain outside the labor market increased, from 37% in 2021 to 40% in the first quarter of 2022, according to a study carried out by the Cámara de Comercio de Costa Rica (Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce).

Perhaps the big problem is that at a collective level, it is perceived, wrongly, that women have greater responses or emotional burdens. This is to the detriment of mental health.

“Since they were little girls, they are used to the burden of having to assume different roles, and frequently attend to emergencies and their own or others’ emotional issues, exposing themselves to the need to face both conflicts and solutions and their consequences,” said Karina Picado, a psychologist.

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“The large number of stimuli that they must attend to at the same time causes women to develop hormonal and emotional instability at the level of the limbic system, which is the emotional part of the brain, which can translate into behavioral problems,” added Picado.

“Multiple roles generate excessive cortisol and that damages neurons, especially those of the frontal lobe, which is responsible for executive functions such as memory, reasoning, frustration management, attention, concentration, and when faced with stress they may be more prone to dangers, accidents and assaults,” emphasized Picado.

Additionally, it is known that stress is generated by a hormone called corticotropin-releasing factor and because women have more hormone receptors, they present a higher response to suffering from it.

“Women are more exposed to hormonal changes and that scientifically explains the way we react to a traumatic event. However, the greatest cause of stress is exhausting work roles, economic impact, being caregivers, and violence,” emphasized Cindy Quesada, Minister for the Status of Women.

Health experts recommend maintaining a lifestyle avoiding exceeding the time dedicated to work and obligations at home. In addition, sleep, eat well, exercise and, if necessary, seek professional help for a better quality of life.


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