Just the job? Is the relationship between health and domestic and paid work gender-specific?


Address for correspondence: Kate Hunt, MRC Medical Sociology Unit, 6 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow GI2 8QQ.


Gendered assumptions about working lives are inherent in explanatory models and empirical analysis of the relationship between work and health. Although some of these assumptions reflect the reality of gender divisions of labour, they are rarely empirically tested and male and female samples are too often considered separately. Here we take a broader definition of work which includes aspects of paid work and domestic work, treating both domains as being relevant in principle to both men and women.

Using multivariate analysis and two measures of current health (malaise and physical symptoms), it was found that the association between domestic work (at least as measured here) and health is relatively small, and restricted to women's health. Paid work, in contrast, has much stronger associations with malaise for both men and women, and some indicators of specific aspects of work suggest that effects are not gender- specific. Taking account of both paid and domestic work together has an enhanced effect for women though not men, especially when indicators of conflict between paid work and other areas of life are taken into account. However, reports of work conflict are associated with more malaise in both men and women. Although the model is successful in explaining the variance in malaise symptoms this was not true for physical symptoms.