Sex and Gender Differences in Occupational Hazard Exposures: a Scoping Review of the Recent Literature

Curr Environ Health Rep. 2021 Dec;8(4):267-280. doi: 10.1007/s40572-021-00330-8. Epub 2021 Nov 27.

Abstract

Purpose of review: Comparative research on sex and/or gender differences in occupational hazard exposures is necessary for effective work injury and illness prevention strategies. This scoping review summarizes the peer-reviewed literature from 2009 to 2019 on exposure differences to occupational hazards between men and women, across occupations, and within the same occupation.

Recent findings: Fifty-eight studies retrieved from eight databases met our inclusion criteria. Of these, 30 studies were found on physical hazards, 38 studies on psychological/psychosocial hazards, 5 studies on biological hazards, and 17 studies on chemical hazards. The majority of studies reported that men were exposed to noise, vibration, medical radiation, physically demanding work, solar radiation, falls, biomechanical risks, chemical hazards, and blood contamination; while women were exposed to wet work, bullying and discrimination, work stress, and biological agents. Within the same occupations, men were more likely to be exposed to physical hazards, with the exception of women in health care occupations and exposure to prolonged standing. Women compared to men in the same occupations were more likely to experience harassment, while men compared to women in the same occupations reported higher work stress. Men reported more exposure to hazardous chemicals in the same occupations as women. The review suggests that men and women have different exposures to occupational hazards and that these differences are not solely due to a gendered distribution of the labor force by occupation. Findings may inform prevention efforts seeking to reduce gender inequalities in occupational health. Future research is needed to explain the reasons for sex/gender inequality differences in exposures within the same occupation.

Keywords: Gender-based analysis; Occupational health; Safety; Scoping review; Sex differences; Workers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Employment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Occupational Health*
  • Occupations
  • Sex Factors