Gender and mental health in Bihar and India: Developing tools for effective measurement

Preliminary evidence suggests that women in India are more likely to suffer poor mental health than men, impacting their own wellbeing but also that of any children they may have. Understanding women’s mental health in Bihar is especially important: compared with other Indian states, poverty is more common, gender discrimination is sometimes more severe, and the consequences of children’s poor health are less likely to be remediated by public services.

This project’s first goal is to develop new, cost-effective mobile phone survey methods for measuring mental health that are appropriate to Bihar and other parts of India. This is broadly useful for research and policymaking, as it will permit the monitoring of gender disparities and tracking of mental health trends. We evaluate two possible ways of measuring mental health by randomly assigning mental health questions to respondents, then comparing prevalence rates across the two measures to investigate whether the measure that is used influences our conclusions about gender disparities in mental health.

This project’s second goal is to evaluate a candidate explanation for the high burden of poor mental health among women in Bihar, and other Indian states: gender discrimination. Our data permit a novel description of mental health levels and disparities in a context where women’s status is known to be a cause of poor child health and nutrition, further allowing us to investigate the extent to which discriminatory practices within households can explain women’s mental health outcomes.