PETALING JAYA: Being young, single and female is not all that great after all. Those aged 35 and below, and still unmarried, have experienced the worst mental strain under the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study.

And if you are a woman, you have it worse than your brothers, boyfriend or hubby.

The study, conducted by Malaysian think tank and non-profit organisation The Centre, concluded that women are more likely to feel “markers of negative mental health compared with men”.

Not surprisingly, the younger ones get it worse because as Dr Chooi Weng Tink of Universiti Sains Malaysia told theSun, they are just not well equipped for the transitions that they may face.

The assessment is based on data collected online from nearly 1,000 individuals from Feb 4 to Feb 14.

Chooi pointed out that this is a transitional period for young people as they leave the nest to beat a path of their own.

“The struggle with interpersonal relationships comes as a package.”

She said women are also victims of role stereotyping.

“Women are burdened with ‘unpaid work’ that comes in the form of managing the household, raising children, taking care of the elderly in the family and so on.

“Single mothers have the extra burden of having to work while dealing with the chores at home,” she added.

The study also showed that living alone is another factor that leads to greater mental strain while struggling through the pandemic.

Chooi said past research has shown that a life partner reduces loneliness blues and can offer protection against mental stress.

“Single individuals who also lack a strong social network are the ones expressing more mental health issues.”

“Taking all factors into consideration, I think the time has come to reach out to others and be there for the ones we know,” Chooi said, adding that cutting down on social media use can also lower risk of depression and anxiety.

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman assistant professor and lecturer Dr Nor Azlili Hassan, an expert in gender studies, said women are twice as likely as men to experience negative mental health due to several reasons, the first being hormonal risk factors.

“Estrogen and progesterone have proven to affect mood disorders or mood swings and women experience mood disorders associated with their menstrual cycle,” she explained.

Nor Azlili said girls typically reach puberty before boys, and research has shown that they are more likely to develop depression at an earlier age than boys.

Girls are also regarded as more nurturing and sensitive to the opinions of others, while boys are encouraged to be independent, she added.

Socially, boys are associated with being tough and avoid anything perceived as feminine, including open display of emotion.

Nor Azlili said depression, anxiety and stress are generally prevalent among youths because they have to deal with the stress brought on by the new normal in the academic world.

Studies have shown that 40% of Malaysians have suffered mental health problems at some point in their lives, and the majority of those who take their own lives are the young.

Citing findings by the Health Ministry, Nor Azili said family problems, financial crises, low self-respect, bullying, poor academic performance, sexual orientation and being victims of physical or sexual abuse contribute to depression among the young.

However, a healthy marriage and strong relationships enhance psychological well-being.