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Soc Sci Med. 2010 Dec;71(12):2091-9. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.09.031. Epub 2010 Oct 12.

Sex differences in physical and mental functioning of Japanese civil servants: explanations from work and family characteristics.

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  • 1Department of Welfare Promotion and Epidemiology, University of Toyama, 2630 Sugitani, Toyama 930-0194, Japan.


Poor physical and mental functioning are more common among women than men and those with disadvantaged work and family characteristics. This study aims to clarify whether sex differences in health functioning can be explained by sex differences in work and family characteristics. The subjects were 3787 civil servants (2525 men and 1262 women), aged 20-65, working in a local government on the west coast of Japan. A questionnaire survey was conducted in January 2003. Low employment grade, high demands, long work hours, shift work, being unmarried, having no young children, high family-to-work conflict and high work-to-family conflict were more common among women than men and were independently associated with poor physical and mental functioning. The age-adjusted odds ratios (ORs) of women for poor health functioning were 1.80 for poor physical functioning and 1.77 for poor mental functioning. When adjusted for employment grade and work characteristics (control, demand, support, work hours, and shift work), the sex differences in health functioning attenuated. When adjusted for family characteristics (family structure and work-family conflicts), the sex differences in health functioning further attenuated and were no longer statistically significant. Sex differences in family characteristics contributed more to sex difference in mental functioning than sex differences in work characteristics. Japan belongs to conservative welfare regimes. In such countries, men are able to concentrate on their work with relative freedom from their family tasks and responsibilities, whereas women feel difficulties in maintaining their work-life balances. Such sex differences in work- and family-related stresses may contribute to sex difference in health. Longitudinal research is necessary to clarify the causal nature of these associations.

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