Developing an evidence base on sex/gender differences in the relationship between working conditions and injury risk, chronic illnesses and return to work
Reasons for the study
Male and female labour force participation rates in Canada have changed dramatically over the last three decades. The percentage of labour force participants who are female increased from 39 per cent to 48 per cent between 1980 and 2011. Although women now make up nearly half of labour force participants, much of what we know about the relationship between working conditions and health is based on measures developed on men and frameworks tested in male-dominated workplaces. However, there may be important male and female differences in the biological and behavioural reactions to working conditions and job hazards, and the relationship between these conditions/hazards and risk of subsequent injury and disease and rates of recovery and return to work in the wake of injury and disease.
This project generated new research in three areas where significant gaps in knowledge exist concerning the work and health experiences of men and women: (1) the psychosocial work environment (including job control, psychological demands and social support) and the development of hypertension and diabetes among men and women; (2) gender and sex differences in work-related risk factors for occupational and non-occupational injury and disease (including stress); and (3) individual, workplace and health-care provider factors leading to differences in the return-to-work outcomes after work-related injury among men and women.
Objectives of the study
- To create a more nuanced understanding of how sex/gender shape injury risk, the relationship between the work environment and chronic illnesses, and time off work after a work-related injury
- To help shape the development of gender- and sex-sensitive policies and practices to improve the health of all working Canadians
- To examine gender/sex differences in the association between dimensions of the psychosocial work environment and the development of various health conditions, including stress, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (see separate project page under this umbrella on the relationship between prolonged standing and heart disease)
Related scientific publications
- Biswas A, Harbin S, Irvin E, Johnston H, Begum M, Tiong M, Apedaile D, Koehoorn M, Smith PM. Sex and gender differences in occupational hazard exposures: a scoping review of the recent literature. Current Environmental Health Reports. 2021 epub ahead of print. doi:10.1007/s40572-021-00330-8.
- Biswas A, Gilbert-Ouimet M, Mustard C, Glazier RH, Smith PM. Combined associations of work and leisure time physical activity on incident diabetes risk. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2021;60(3):e149-e158. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2020.09.017.
- Smith PM, Cawley C, Williams AM, Mustard C. Male/female differences in the impact of caring for elderly relatives on labor market attachment and hours of work: 1997-2015. The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. 2020;75(3):694-704. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbz026.
- Ramkissoon A, Smith PM, Oudyk J. Dissecting the effect of workplace exposures on workers' rating of psychological health and safety. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 2019;62(5):412-421. doi:10.1002/ajim.22964.
- Dobson K, Gilbert-Ouimet M, Mustard C, Smith PM. Association between dimensions of the psychosocial and physical work environment and latent smoking trajectories: a 16-year cohort study of the Canadian workforce. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2018;75(11):814-821. doi:10.1136/oemed-2018-105138.
Related interviews and articles
- Psychosocial work conditions linked with both positive and negative mental health. At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 97, Summer 2019.
- Women’s work more likely than men’s to be disrupted due to caring for older relatives. At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 96, Spring 2019.
- Longer hours linked to diabetes risk in women: Study. Canadian HR Reporter. November 7, 2018. Available from: https://www.hrreporter.com/workplace-health-and-wellness/38516-longer-hours-linked-to-diabetes-risk-in-women-study/
- Work-related stressors impact women and men differently, research finds. Workers Health & Safety Centre. August 28, 2018. Available from: https://www.whsc.on.ca/what-s-new/news-archive/work-related-stressors-impact-women-and-men-differ
- Sex/gender analysis: Links between psychosocial work factors and stress not always as expected. At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 93, Summer 2018.
- Sex/gender analysis: Gender study finds overwork linked to higher risks of diabetes in women, not men. At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 93, Summer 2018.
- Hard-working women, go home earlier to avoid this disease. CNN. July 2, 2018. Available from: https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/02/health/diabetes-long-hours-women-study/index.html
- Working overtime could raise women's diabetes risk. U.S. News & World Report. July 2, 2018. Available from: https://health.usnews.com/health-care/articles/2018-07-02/working-overtime-could-raise-womens-diabetes-risk
- Bad news: Now standing at work is killing you, too. GQ: Conde Nast (New York, NY). September 17, 2017. Available from: https://www.gq.com/story/standing-death-study
- IWH to explore how work affects health of women and men differently. At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 78, Fall 2014.
Related research summaries
- Psychosocial work conditions and mental health. Research Highlights: Institute for Work & Health, June 2019.
- Gender differences in the impact of eldercare on work. Research Highlights: Institute for Work & Health, June 2019.
- Gender differences in the link between psychosocial work exposures and stress. Research Highlights: Institute for Work & Health, August 2018.
Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Canadian Institutes of Health Research