Problematizing gender, work and health: the relationship between gender, occupational grade, working conditions and minor morbidity in full-time bank employees
It is commonly asserted that while women have longer life expectancy than men, they have higher rates of morbidity, particularly for minor and psychological conditions. However, most research on gender and health has taken only limited account of the gendered distribution of social roles. Here we investigate gender differences in morbidity whilst controlling, as far as possible, for one major role, namely participation in paid employment. There is substantial segregation of the labour market by gender; men and women typically work different hours in different occupations which involve varying conditions and differing rewards and costs. Here, we examine men and women working full-time for the same employer. This paper reports on a postal survey of employees (1112 men and 1064 women) of a large British bank. It addresses three main questions: do gender differences in minor morbidity remain if we compare men and women who are employed in similar circumstances (same industry and employer)? What is the relative importance of gender, grade of employment within the organisation, perceived working conditions and orientation to gender roles for minor morbidity? Finally, are these factors related to health differentially for men and women? There were statistically significant gender differences amongst these full-time employees in recent experience of malaise symptoms, but not in physical symptoms or GHQ scores. Controlling for other factors did not reduce the gender differences in malaise scores and produced a weak, but significant, gender difference in GHQ scores. However, gender explained only a small proportion of variance, particularly in comparison with working conditions. Generally similar relationships between experience of work and occupational grade and morbidity were observed for men and women. Throughout the paper, we attempt to problematize gender, recognising that there are similarities between women and men and diversity amongst women and amongst men. However, we conclude that the gendered nature of much of adult life, including paid work, continues to shape the experiences and health of men and women at the end of the twentieth century.
Volume (Year): 48 (1999)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
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