Understanding how sex/gender differences shape relationships between working conditions and injury risk, chronic illnesses and return to work

Reasons for the study

Women make up nearly half of labour force participants, yet 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. As one of nine research chairs in gender, work and health awarded in 2013 by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Institute for Work & Health Senior Scientist Dr. Peter Smith is leading a five-year program that will generate new research across three areas where significant gaps in knowledge exist concerning the work and health experiences of men and women. These are: (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 injury and disease; 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

Anticipated results/impact

The study will lead to both an increase in the momentum and capacity in gender, work and health research, and to the development of gender- and sex-sensitive policies to improve the health of working Canadians.

Related scientific publications

Gilbert-Ouimet M, Ma H, Glazier R, Brisson C, Mustard C, Smith PM. Adverse effect of long work hours on incident diabetes in 7065 Ontario workers followed for 12 years. BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. 2018;6(1):e000496. doi:10.1136/bmjdrc-2017-000496.
Quinn MM, Smith PM. Gender, work, and health. Annals of Work Exposures and Health. 2018;62(4):389-392. doi:10.1093/annweh/wxy019.

Related interviews and articles

IWH to explore how work affects health of women and men differently. At Work: Institute for Work & Health; No. 78, Fall 2014.

Project status


Research team

Peter Smith, Institute for Work & Health (PI)

Funded by

Canadian Institutes of Health Research