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Int J Epidemiol. 2004 Aug;33(4):884-93. Epub 2004 May 27.

Does conflict between home and work explain the effect of multiple roles on mental health? A comparative study of Finland, Japan, and the UK.

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  • 1International Centre for Health and Society, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London Medical School, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK. tarani@public-health.ucl.ac.uk

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Although there have been a number of studies on the effects of multiple roles on health and how a combination of work and family roles may be either advantageous (role enhancement) or disadvantageous (role strain) for health, there has been relatively little investigation on the psychosocial content of such roles. Work-to-family conflict and family-to-work conflict could arise from inability to combine multiple roles and result in stress and ill health. The question of whether both types of conflict mediate between the association of multiple roles with health has not been analysed before. This paper sets out to investigate whether: (1) work-to-family conflict or family-to-work conflict contributes towards explaining the association of multiple roles with mental health; (2) the effect of work-to-family conflict and family-to-work conflict on mental health varies by gender; (3) the effect of work-to-family and family-to-work conflict on mental health vary between countries with different welfare state arrangements and social norms.

METHODS:

Cross-sectional data of economically active male and female public sector employees aged 35-60 in London (UK), Helsinki (Finland), and the West Coast of Japan. Linear regression models (separate for each gender and cohort) of SF-36 mental component scores were analysed with role combinations, family-to-work and work-to-family conflict as explanatory variables.

RESULTS:

Single fathers in all three cohorts and of single mothers in the Helsinki cohort had poor mental health, and this was partly explained by their higher levels family-to-work conflict. Both types of conflict affect the mental health of men and women independently of each other. Japanese women had the greatest conflict and poorest mental health while Helsinki women had the lowest conflict and best mental health.

CONCLUSION:

Both work-to-family and family-to-work conflict affect the mental health of men and women in three different countries. Work and family roles and the balance between the two may be important for the mental health of men and women in industrialized societies. Any analysis of the effect of multiple roles on health needs to take into account the psychosocial content of such roles.

PMID:
15166199
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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