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Women Health. 2000;31(4):1-20.

Women's work roles and their impact on health, well-being, and career: comparisons between the United States, Sweden, and The Netherlands.

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Department of Family Practice & Community Health, University of Minnesota, St. Paul 55103, USA.


As women have become more assimilated into the work-force over recent decades, they have realized considerable changes in their work roles which may contribute to health problems and other negative outcomes such as marital strain and diminished job status. The purpose of this review was threefold: (1) to synthesize data on the distribution of women's work efforts in the areas of paid employment, household chores, and childcare; (2) to outline research which addresses the impact of women's workload on their well-being and careers; and (3) to make international and gender comparisons regarding women's work responsibilities. Our findings showed that women from each of the three countries examined--the United States, Sweden, and The Netherlands--contribute more effort to household chores and childcare and less to the workplace than men do. As a result, their total workloads appear to be somewhat greater and more diffusely distributed than those of men. Heavy workloads may adversely affect women's health, especially in the presence of certain role characteristics (e.g., having a clerical, managerial, professional, or executive position, or caring for young children). Heavy work responsibilities may also undermine marital happiness, particularly if there is perceived inequity in the way partners share household work. Finally, women's total work responsibilities often impact their careers due to compensatory reductions in work commitment and job status. These observations point to the need for further research on women's workload and work roles, on the relationship of work to well-being, and on methods of preventing or alleviating adverse effects on overburdened workers.

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