Patterns of gender equality at workplaces and psychological distress

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53246. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053246. Epub 2013 Jan 9.

Abstract

Research in the field of occupational health often uses a risk factor approach which has been criticized by feminist researchers for not considering the combination of many different variables that are at play simultaneously. To overcome this shortcoming this study aims to identify patterns of gender equality at workplaces and to investigate how these patterns are associated with psychological distress. Questionnaire data from the Northern Swedish Cohort (n = 715) have been analysed and supplemented with register data about the participants' workplaces. The register data were used to create gender equality indicators of women/men ratios of number of employees, educational level, salary and parental leave. Cluster analysis was used to identify patterns of gender equality at the workplaces. Differences in psychological distress between the clusters were analysed by chi-square test and logistic regression analyses, adjusting for individual socio-demographics and previous psychological distress. The cluster analysis resulted in six distinctive clusters with different patterns of gender equality at the workplaces that were associated to psychological distress for women but not for men. For women the highest odds of psychological distress was found on traditionally gender unequal workplaces. The lowest overall occurrence of psychological distress as well as same occurrence for women and men was found on the most gender equal workplaces. The results from this study support the convergence hypothesis as gender equality at the workplace does not only relate to better mental health for women, but also more similar occurrence of mental ill-health between women and men. This study highlights the importance of utilizing a multidimensional view of gender equality to understand its association to health outcomes. Health policies need to consider gender equality at the workplace level as a social determinant of health that is of importance for reducing differences in health outcomes for women and men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexism / statistics & numerical data*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Workplace / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

Funders include: 1) Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, grant number Dnr 2007-2073 (URL: http://www.fas.se/sv/Projektkatalog/?arende=17071); and 2) National School for Gender Studies at Umeå University, which is funding part of the salary for the corresponding author in the article. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.