513 Why do female workers have a greater risk of long-term chronic disease compared to men?

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Abstract

Introduction

Recent studies suggest that female workers face a greater risk of long-term chronic disease than male workers. A 2008 Mexican study indicated that older female workers have an elevated prevalence of arthritis, diabetes, and hypertension compared to men. A recent U.S. study showed that women working long hours have an elevated risk for chronic disease later in life compared to men. South Korean researchers reported that women in nonstandard jobs are more likely to suffer chronic mental disorders. However, little is known about why female workers have a comparatively greater risk of long term chronic disease.

Methods

This study involves conducting a systematic literature review followed by a meta analysis of studies involving chronic disease among working women, particularly focusing on populations of working women who are aged fifty and older. The review also focuses on identifying distinctive aspects of women’s work in specific occupational groups in an international context.

Result

Initial results from the analysis suggest several explanations: a) the evidence is relatively strong that working long hours for extended periods of time raises the likelihood for chronic disease, b) the literature suggests that shift work and disruption of circadian rhythms among women can create long-term chronic health problems, c) women are often required to perform multiple roles at home and work which place greater stress on the women’s ability to meet those additional responsibilities, d) because of those obligations, many working women may not have sufficient time to take care of their health, and e) some demanding physical tasks might be difficult to perform because of inherent gender-based biological constraints (e.g., performing heavy materials-handling tasks).

Discussion

More specific empirical study of the reasons for elevated chronic disease risk among working women is needed. Additionally, workplace-based interventions to screen affected women for chronic disease should be adopted.

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