Work and family roles, gender, socioeconomic status and health : a study of employed Canadian men and women
Janzen, Bonnie Lynn
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Using data from Statistics Canada's National Population Health Survey, the present study investigated the psychosocial determinants of health status among employed Canadian adults. The results are presented in three interrelated papers. The first paper highlights the patterning of health among Canadians occupying different role configurations who also vary in terms of gender, socioeconomic status, and life stage. Results indicated that compared to triple role women, women occupying a single role or two roles in 1994/95 reported poorer health status in 1996/97. This relationship held true for women in varying life stage and economic circumstances. While family role occupancies in the present study were not as strongly related to the health status of men as women, one exception emerged: for older men, single and double role occupants reported significantly poorer self-rated and functional health status than triple role men. The second paper delved deeper into the quality of the role experience, examining how the demands and resources associated with one specific role configuration (i.e., paid worker, parent, and partner) influenced physical health outcomes over time, and whether gender and life stage influenced the nature of that relationship. Compared to Canadians with lower family demands, those with high levels of family demands in 1994/95 generally reported poorer health in 1996/97. Contrary to predictions however, few significant associations were found between work variables and health status. Associations between health status and family resources, operationalized as a combination of income adequacy and home ownership, were also weaker than previous research has suggested. The purpose of the third paper was to test the tenability of a psychosocial model of health status incorporating both proximate and distal health determinants. Using path analysis, the results suggest that qualitative aspects of triple-role Canadian women's work and family roles, along with a sense of mastery, are important intermediary links in the relationship between socioeconomic status and health. These findings highlight the need to address the broader economic factors which impinge on the well being of women through their everyday work and domestic experiences. The contribution of the three papers to current discourse on gender and health is discussed.