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Soc Sci Med. 1998 Jun;46(11):1417-24.

Gender, work roles and psychosocial work characteristics as determinants of health.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Institute of Child Health, University of London, UK.


This paper aims to identify gender similarities and differences in psychosocial work characteristics for those in and out of paid employment, to inform research on possible health-related effects. Specifically five questions are addressed: do women report poorer work characteristics than men; are gender differences related to specific characteristics; do work characteristics differ between full- and part-time women workers and between those in paid and unpaid work; are socio-economic gradients in work characteristics similar for men and women; and, if there are gradients, do they differ between women in paid and unpaid work? Analyses are based on the 33 year follow-up of the 1958 British birth cohort. Four psychosocial work characteristics were examined: learning opportunities, monotony, pace of work, and flexibility of breaks. Women reported more negative work characteristics than men, primarily because of differences in learning opportunities (26% lacked opportunity compared with 13% of men) and monotonous work (47 and 31% respectively). Women in full-time employment reported fewer negative characteristics (27%) than part-time (39%) or home-workers (36%). Home-workers had fewer opportunities for learning (36%) and greater monotony (49%) than paid workers (21 and 22% respectively), however fewer home-workers reported inability to control the work pace (11% compared to 23%) and inflexibility of breaks (21% compared to 47%). Socio-economic gradients in work characteristics were similar among men and women, except for flexibility of break times. A socio-economic gradient in work characteristics was found for full- and part-time workers, but not among home-workers. Differences in self reported health were also examined: a social gradient was found for all employment status groups, being strongest for home-workers despite the absence of a gradient in negative work characteristics. In conclusion, these marked gender differences in psychosocial work characteristics need to be considered in future research on work and health.

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