Gender/sex differences in the relationship between psychosocial work exposures and work and life stress
Stress is an important factor affecting the health of working population. While work exposures are determinants of levels of work and life stress, we do not know whether similar or different exposures are related to stress levels for men and women. This study aimed to formally examine male/female differences in the relationships between psychosocial work exposures and work and life stress in a representative sample of Canadian labour market participants.
We used data from 2012 cycle of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), a representative population-based survey conducted by Statistics Canada. The sample was restricted to employed labour force participants working 15+ hours per week (N = 8328, 48% female). To examine the relationship between work exposures and work and life stress, we conducted path analyses. Psychosocial work exposures included social support, job insecurity, job control, and job strain. Differences between estimates for men and women were explored using multigroup analyses, constraining paths between male and female models to be equivalent and examining the impact on change in model fit.
Male/female differences were observed in the relationships between supervisor support and work stress levels as well as between job control, job insecurity, job strain, and life stress levels. Higher levels of supervisor support at work were associated with lower work stress among women, but not among men. Low job control had a direct protective effect on life stress for men but not for women, while high job strain had a direct adverse effect on life stress among women but not among men. Higher job insecurity was more strongly associated with higher life stress among men compared with women. The relationship between work stress and life stress was similar among men and women.
The findings of this study suggest that the relationships between psychosocial exposures and work and life stress differ for men and women. Our study also raised important questions about which work exposures are considered when assessing work stress, with level of job control not related to work stress but associated with levels of life stress among men.
Our study highlights the role of psychosocial work environment for both work and life stress and suggests differences in the importance of specific psychosocial work dimensions for feelings of stress among men and women, and for work stress versus life stress. Future study designs should ensure that measures are included to better disentangle the relative contribution of social and biological factors in explaining these differences among men and women.