She ate not the bread of idleness: exhaustion is related to domestic and salaried working conditions among 539 Québec hospital workers

Women Health. 1990;16(1):21-42. doi: 10.1300/J013v16n01_03.


Hospital workers completed a questionnaire on domestic and professional working conditions and health symptoms. Workers were asked to estimate the number of domestic work hours, and the degree of sharing of laundry, cleaning, meal preparation and childcare. Responses from the 532 women workers showed an average professional work week of 31.2 hours and an average domestic work week of 19.2 hours. The length of the domestic work week increased with the number of children, and the degree of sharing diminished. Among couples with children, the reported length of the domestic work week correlated highly with an index calculated from the degree of sharing of domestic tasks, and the number and ages of children. Exhaustion and insomnia were associated with work speed and shift work, respectively, at the hospital job, but also with the number of hours of domestic work. Backache, which was related to lifting weights in the workplace, was not associated with the number of reported hours of domestic work. Due to errors in formulating some questions, the study underestimates total hours of domestic work, and, probably, effects of domestic work on health. However, it is the first North American study to show the combined effects of domestic work and paid work on physical health symptoms among women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Pain / etiology
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Female
  • Household Work
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Personnel, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quebec
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Work