Are women in female jobs for their health? A study of working conditions and health effects in the fish-processing industry in Quebec

Int J Health Serv. 1983;13(4):635-48. doi: 10.2190/6RA4-A4CQ-HGFK-3JQH.


A questionnaire concerning environmental conditions, work organization, and health-related symptoms was administered to 209 male and female workers in fish-processing plants in Quebec. Jobs in these factories were "ghettoized," with 88.9 percent of job titles held primarily (more than 75 percent) by members of one sex. In general, significantly more women than men reported that their work sites exposed them to environmental aggressors such as noise and cold. Women also reported significantly more often that their jobs were uninteresting, that they could not move around, and that their work speed was fast. Women reported fatigue, stress, insomnia, digestive problems, and aches and pains significantly more often than did men (analysis controlled for age). When the effects of work speed were examined specifically, it was found that a fast work speed was associated with fatigue, stress, insomnia, and digestive problems in both sexes, and with aches and pains in women. It is suggested that women are required to work at a faster speed than men, and that this is a factor in the greater prevalence of health-related symptoms among women. Our interpretation of these data calls into question the commonly held belief that men and women are assigned to sex-specific jobs in order to protect the health of "the weaker sex."

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environment*
  • Environmental Health*
  • Female
  • Fish Products
  • Food-Processing Industry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Noise
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Quebec
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women*
  • Women, Working*