Women's health in relation with their family and work roles: France in the early 1990s

Soc Sci Med. 2000 Jun;50(12):1807-25. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(99)00419-0.


In this paper, the health of women aged 30 to 49 years is analyzed according to the family and work roles which they exercise, based on the 1991-1992 French national health survey. Households are classified based on the amount of their material resources, and a variety of measures of health and of health-related behaviors are considered. Looking at each role separately, the 'healthy married', 'healthy mother' and 'healthy worker' effects are very obvious for almost all health measures, and higher household income per unit of consumption is clearly associated with better health of women. The role patterns of women are not evenly distributed across income levels: housewives and lone mothers are more common at the bottom and middle of the income scale than at the top, while working women without children, married or not, are much more common at the top. In health terms, more heterogeneity is attached to role patterns in the middle of the income scale than at either extreme. In the middle stratum, two groups of women stand out as being clearly disadvantaged in comparison with that of married women with children and a job: (1) lone mothers, particularly in terms of mental health conditions, malaise symptoms and health-related behaviour, and (2) housewives, particularly in terms of physical health conditions. At the bottom of the income scale, no significant disadvantage is found for housewives compared to married working mothers, yet their overall health pattern is somewhat negative. At the top of the income scale, married working women without children, as well as single women do feel more often than married working mothers that they suffer from handicap or discomfort. The findings are discussed in terms of role enhancement and role strain, health selection, the nature of the health disadvantage associated with specific role patterns, and the importance of the structural context in the role framework.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Demography
  • Family Relations*
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Health Services Research
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Role*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouses / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Health*