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Explanatory variables for women’s increased risk for mental health problems in Vietnam



The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals include gender equality for women, including health, as one of seventeen targets. Within this broad domain, a wide range of research indicates that being female is associated with increased risk for mental health problems, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). What is less clear are the trans-diagnostic demographic and environmental risk factors in LMIC that may underlie this increased risk. The purpose of the present study was to identify socio-economic and related disadvantages potentially underlying increased risk for women for mental health-related problems in the Southeast Asian LMIC of Vietnam.


Nine hundred and seventy-seven adults were randomly selected from five provinces in central coastal Vietnam. Individuals were assessed cross-sectionally for depression (PHQ-9), anxiety (GAD-7), post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (PDS), somatic syndrome (SCL-90-R), alcohol dependence (ICD-10), functional impairment (PDS life functioning section), and self-perceived general physical health (SF-36). Trans-diagnostic risk factors assessed included financial stress, education level, exposure to traumatic events, and others.


At the multivariate level, gender explained approximately 5% of the variance in mental health symptoms, with women significantly higher in all mental health domains except alcohol dependency. The trans-diagnostic risk factors explained slightly over half of this variance, with financial stress and lower education levels the two strongest individual explanatory variables for women’s increased risk for mental health problems.


These results suggest that support for gender equality including in regard to economic stability and education may be critical for reducing broad gender disparities in mental health functioning.

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The authors of this study gratefully acknowledge project funding support provided by the United States National Institutes of Health (D43-TW009089) and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Hanoi. They also gratefully acknowledge the support of the research participants.

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Correspondence to Bahr Weiss.

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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Human subjects’ IRB approval was obtained from the Danang Psychiatric Hospital IRB #1 (US-FWA #11251).

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Collier, K.M., Weiss, B., Pollack, A. et al. Explanatory variables for women’s increased risk for mental health problems in Vietnam. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 55, 359–369 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-019-01761-3

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  • Gender disparities
  • LMIC
  • Vietnam
  • Explanatory variables
  • Mental health