The association of health and employment in mature women: a longitudinal study

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2012 Mar;21(3):273-80. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2011.2872. Epub 2011 Nov 7.


Background: Despite a reduction in income inequalities between men and women, there is still a large gap between income and retirement savings of Australian men and women. This is especially true for women who have health or disability problems. Mature age women are closest to retirement and, therefore, have less chance than younger women to build up enough retirement savings and may need to continue working to fund their older age. Continued workforce participation may be particularly difficult for women who are less healthy. Understanding which health problems lead to a decrease in workforce participation among mature age women is crucial. Therefore, this longitudinal study sought to identify which health problems are associated with employment among midage women over time.

Methods: Data were analyzed from the midage cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH), which involved 14,200 midage women (aged 45-50 years in 1996). The women have been surveyed four additional times, in 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2007. Generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used to conduct nested multivariate longitudinal analyses.

Results: The percentages of women who were employed in the years 2001, 2004, and 2007 were 77%, 72%, and 68%, respectively. Results were adjusted for sociodemographic variables. Being employed decreased as physical and mental health deteriorated and with self-reported conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions. Back pain, arthritis, cancer, obesity, and being a current smoker are associated with employment but not when quality of life is added to the model.

Conclusions: There were significant associations between health and employment. Understanding these relationships could inform policies and guidelines for preventing declines in employment in mature age women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • United States
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / psychology*