In sickness and in health: associations between physical and mental well-being, employment and parental status in a British nationwide sample of married women

Psychol Med. 1991 May;21(2):515-24. doi: 10.1017/s0033291700020626.


Many studies have been published which have examined the relationship between paid employment and women's health. As employment outside the home is likely to have differential effects for women with different family commitments, further analysis taking account of the association between paid employment and household circumstances is necessary. Using data from a large, representative British sample, this paper examines the effects of interactions between paid employment, social class, and parental status on women's health. The results show differential effects of these variables on physical and mental health. The most important influence on women's mental health (as measured by the 30-item General Health Questionnaire) is the age of their youngest child; women with children under five are most likely to show signs of psychological disturbance. With respect to physical health, age of the youngest child has no significant effect, but there is an interaction between employment status and social class. Paid employment, particularly full-time work, is associated with good physical health for middle-class women but not for working-class women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Role*
  • Social Class
  • Social Environment
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • United Kingdom
  • Women, Working / psychology*