Gendered working environments as a determinant of mental health inequalities: a systematic review of 27 studies

Occup Environ Med. 2020 Aug 14:oemed-2019-106281. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2019-106281. Online ahead of print.


Background: 'Gendered working environments' describes the ways in which (1) differential selection into work, (2) variations in employment arrangements and working hours, (3) differences in psychosocial exposures and (4) differential selection out of work may produce varied mental health outcomes for men and women. The aim of this study was to conduct a systematic review to understand gender differences in mental health outcomes in relation to the components of gendered working environments.

Methods: The review followed a Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) search approach and focused on studies published in 2008-2018. The protocol for the review was prospectively registered with PROSPERO (CRD42019124066).

Findings: Across the 27 cohort studies included in the review, we found that (1) there was inconclusive evidence on the effect of occupational gender composition on the mental health of men and women, (2) women's mental health was more likely to be affected by long working hours than men's; however, precarious employment was more likely to be negatively associated with men's mental health, (3) exposure to traditional constructs of psychosocial job stressors negatively affected the mental health of both women and men, and (4) unemployment and retirement are associated with poorer mental health in both genders.

Interpretation: The findings from this review indicate that gendered working environments may affect the mental health of both men and women, but the association is dependent on the specific exposure examined. There is still much to be understood about gendered working environments, and future research into work and health should be considered with a gender lens.

Keywords: gender; mental health; public health.

Publication types

  • Review