• occupational health;
  • psycho-social stressors;
  • work organization;
  • women in the workplace;
  • nonstandard work

Adults with better jobs enjoy better health: job title was, in fact, the social gradient metric first used to study the relationship between social class and chronic disease etiology, a core finding now replicated in most developed countries. What has been less well proved is whether this correlation is causal, and if so, through what mechanisms. During the past decade, much research has been directed at these issues. Best evidence in 2009 suggests that occupation does affect health. Most recent research on the relationship has been directed at disentangling the pathways through which lower-status work leads to adverse health outcomes. This review focuses on six areas of recent progress: (1) the role of status in a hierarchical occupational system; (2) the roles of psychosocial job stressors; (3) effects of workplace physical and chemical hazard exposures; (4) evidence that work organization matters as a contextual factor; (5) implications for the gradient of new forms of nonstandard or “precarious” employment such as contract and shift work; and (6) emerging evidence that women may be impacted differently by adverse working conditions, and possibly more strongly, than men.