Research shows that women are at twice the risk of having blues compared to men

Women are more likely to suffer from depression and panic attacks than men, according to a study.

Almost three-quarters of women have experienced a mental health problem at some point during their life, it found.

The Mental Health Foundation said women particularly struggle with responsibilities for childcare and for their extended family.

They face pressure to juggle these roles while also appearing thin, beautiful and cheerful.

It means they are more likely than men to suffer anxiety, phobias, panic attacks and depression, while comfort-eating more and losing out on sleep.

Jenny Edwards, chief executive of the foundation, said: ‘Women have much the same worries as men, when it comes to money, careers and relationships, but they also tend to have the emotional burden of worrying more about the relationships in their lives.

‘We see that lone parents and people in large households with three adults and children tend to have the highest incidence of mental health problems, such as those parents living with an elderly family member.

‘Previous research shows women are at twice the risk of men in this situation. Then we have the pressure on women to be thin, beautiful, fashionable, and to be appearing to enjoy their lives.

‘These could be some of the factors which help explain the higher incidence of depression and panic attacks.’

Almost a third of women have suffered a panic attack – a rush of fear and anxiety which leaves some people fearing they are having a heart attack. That compares with 19 percent of men.

Depression rates in women are 45 percent, compared with 40 per cent for men.

The study of more than 2 000 people in England, Scotland and Wales, which was conducted for the charity by research institute NatCen, found that almost half of women do not get enough sleep.

Two out of five cope with the difficulties of life by comfort-eating, which can become a vicious circle when weight gain makes them feel more depressed.

The report, Surviving or Thriving?, also reveals that almost one in seven women have suffered from post-natal depression, while 8 per cent have battled post-traumatic stress disorder, compared with 5 per cent of men.

Mrs Edwards said: ‘Some suggest the increase in PTSD might be due to the sexual expectations being put on young women by young men who have seen online pornography.

‘We do believe that female anxiety is getting worse, because of the pressure on how they look and live their lives.’

Younger people are more likely than those over the age of 55 to say that they have experienced a mental health problem. Experts say older people are more likely to undertake activities which are good for their mental health, such as going for a walk, spending time with friends and family, learning new things and eating healthily.

Edwards said: ‘This isn’t an issue that just affects a minority. At some point in our life most of us are likely to experience a mental health problem.

‘At the same time, too few of us are thriving with good mental health.

‘We know that only a minority of people experiencing mental ill-health access professional support, which means that we need to redouble our efforts to prevent these problems from developing in the first place.’