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Paid work, unpaid work and social support: A study of the health of male and female nurses


  • Walters, Vivienne
  • Lenton, Rhonda
  • French, Susan
  • Eyles, John
  • Mayr, Janet
  • Newbold, Bruce


Paid work, unpaid work in the home and social support are important elements of the social production of health and illness, though their combined effects on both women and men have only recently become a focus of research. This paper examines their association with the health problems of nurses, presenting data from a survey of a proportional random sample of 2285 male and female nurses registered in the Province of Ontario. The data are first analysed for the full sample and then multiple regression analyses are run separately for male and female Registered Nurses. The demands of paid work (overload, exposure to hazards), unpaid work (time pressures, caring for a dependent adult) and overall stress in life are associated with greater health problems. There is also evidence of significant links between social support and health. A poor relationship with a supervisor is associated with health problems. On the other hand, enjoying a confiding relationship with a friend and having up to 4 children reduces the likelihood of experiencing health problems. The features of nursing associated with fewer health problems are challenge, satisfaction with work and working under 20 hours a week. Several common themes emerge in the analyses of women and men: overload, hazard exposure, satisfaction with work, having 3-4 children and level of overall stress in life. Yet the models are also very different and point to the need for further analyses of the social production of health problems in relation to gender. They also suggest that female nurses, in particular, may suffer the effects of restructuring in the health care sector. Workload issues are especially important for women. Younger women, those reporting time pressures and caring for a dependent adult are more likely to report health problems. Having a confiding relationship with a friend is associated with fewer health problems for women. Among men, those who dislike housework are more likely to experience health problems. Satisfaction with work and overall stress in life were associated with health problems for both men and women, though there may be gender differences in what generates satisfaction and stress.

Suggested Citation

  • Walters, Vivienne & Lenton, Rhonda & French, Susan & Eyles, John & Mayr, Janet & Newbold, Bruce, 1996. "Paid work, unpaid work and social support: A study of the health of male and female nurses," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 43(11), pages 1627-1636, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:43:y:1996:i:11:p:1627-1636

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Halkos, George, 1993. "Economic incentives for optimal sulphur abatement in Europe," MPRA Paper 33705, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Ger Klaassen & David Pearce, 1995. "Introduction," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5(2), pages 85-93, March.
    3. Michael Grossman, 1972. "The Demand for Health: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gros72-1, January.
    4. Tietenberg, T H, 1990. "Economic Instruments for Environmental Regulation," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 17-33, Spring.
    5. Halkos, George E., 1993. "Sulphur abatement policy: Implications of cost differentials," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(10), pages 1035-1043, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Steven G. Prus & Ellen Gee, 2001. "Measuring Differences in the Effect of Social Resource Factors on the Health of Elderly Canadian Men and Women," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 58, McMaster University.
    2. Steven G. Prus & Ellen Gee, 2002. "Gender Differences in the Influence of Economic, Lifestyle, and Psychosocial Factors on Later-life Health," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 76, McMaster University.


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