The importance of low control at work and home on depression and anxiety: do these effects vary by gender and social class?

Soc Sci Med. 2002 Mar;54(5):783-98. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(01)00109-5.


In this study we consider both a gender model, a model that focuses on the stress associated with social roles and conditions in the home environment, and a job model, which addresses the stressful characteristics of the work environment, to investigate patterns of women's and men's psychological morbidity across different social positions. Using data from the Whitehall II Study, a longitudinal study of British civil servants, we hypothesise that a lack of control in the home and work environments affects depression and anxiety differently for women and men and across three social class groups. Both women and men with low control either at work or at home had an increased risk of developing depression and anxiety. We did not find an interaction between low control at home and work. We did, however, find that the risks associated with low control either at home or work were not evenly distributed across different social positions, measured by employment grade. Women in the lowest or middle employment grades who also reported low control at work or home were at most risk for depression and anxiety. Men in the middle grade with low work control were at risk for depression while those in the lowest grade were at risk for anxiety. Men in the middle and highest grades, however, were at greatest risk for both outcomes if they reported low control at home. We conclude that, in addition to social roles and characteristics of the work environment, future investigations of gender inequalities in health incorporate variables associated with control at home and social position.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Decision Making
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Government
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Household Work* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Women's Health*
  • Women, Working / psychology