Vulnerability to brain and mental diseases is affected by both sex and gender, i.e. both organic differences between the two sexes as well as differences in psychosocial risk factors related to the feminine or masculine role in society.
Biologically, women are not only at higher risk of developing several disorders (including depression, multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain and stress-related disorders), but they also manifest different disease trajectories and response to treatment. The need for personalized, sex and gender-oriented management of brain and mental disease patients is however not yet taken into proper consideration by clinical science, drug development and policy makers at large.
From a psychosocial perspective, gender imbalance in mental health represents a critical humanitarian need as well as an enormous loss for the society globally. The vast majority of victims of psychological violence are women, who also often have less access to proper medical and psychological assistance worldwide. Representing 70% of unpaid caregivers, women are more likely to suffer from psychological stress and leave their jobs. The high rate of women working part-time for family reasons, in addition to lower education, contribute to a higher likelihood of poverty in women, particularly in old age due to lower pensions. As poverty is inextricably linked to mental disease, gender-friendly measures should be seriously considered by society.