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Women's Safety and Health Issues at Work

	5 women stnading side by side

Health Concerns: Work Structure and Stress

Work organization and job stress are topics of growing concern. Levels of stress-related illness are nearly twice as high for women compared to men. 1. Job stress has been linked with heart disease, muscle/bone disorders, depression, and burnout. NIOSH is working to find causes of workplace stress and possible ways to prevent it. Many job conditions add to stress among women, such as (1) heavy workload demands, (2) little control over work, (3) role uncertainty and conflict, (4) job insecurity, (5) poor relationships with coworkers and supervisors, and (6) work that is narrow, repetitive, and boring. Other factors, such as sexual harassment and work and family balance issues, may also be stressors for women in the workplace.

NIOSH Publications

Overtime and Extended Work Shifts: Recent Findings on Illnesses, Injuries and Health Behaviors
DHHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-143

Plain Language About Shiftwork
DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No. 97-145 (July 1997)

Stress...At Work Booklet
DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No. 99-101 (1999)
En Español

Related Resources

A pilot study on the association between job stress and repeated measures of immunological biomarkers in female nurses
The results of this study suggest that psychological job stress affects the levels of some immunological biomarkers in female nurses.

Associations between work schedule characteristics and occupational injury and illness
After weekly work hours, shift length and demographic variables were accounted for, non-day shifts were associated with work-related injury and illness among nurses. Also, frequency of working mandatory overtime was associated with work-related injury, work-related illness and missing more than two days of work because of a work-related injury or illness.

Boundary-spanning work demands and their consequences for guilt and psychological distress
This study found that frequent work contact during non-work hours was associated with more feelings of guilt and distress among women, but not men.

County level socioeconomic position, work organization and depression disorder: a repeated measures cross-classified multilevel analysis of low-income nursing home workers
Nursing assistants in nursing homes covered by a single union in three states were asked about aspects of their working conditions, job stress, physical and mental health status, individual and family health-care needs, household economics and household strain. Results support a link between financial strain and depression in U.S. women.

Expanding our understanding of the psychosocial work environment: A compendium of measures of discrimination, harassment, and work-family issues .
This document discusses sexual harassment, gender and racial discrimination, and work-family integration and balance.

Gender and age differences in posttraumatic stress disorder and depression among Buffalo police officers
This study looked at the possibility of increased change for depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in police officers. The study found the frequency of depression was greater among women (22.0%) than men (12.1%), yet differences were less evident for PTSD (36.6% women, 34.5% men). Depression and PTSD seemed to increase with age and were not explained by gender, marital status, or education.

Job stress among female flight attendants
This study looked at constant job stressors among flight attendants. Researchers wanted to study the relationships between job stressors and psychological distress and job unhappiness. Researchers found moderate to low levels of distress and dissatisfaction. Lowering job stressors and enhancing social support may improve the well-being and job satisfaction of flight attendants.

Health Hazard Evaluation Report HETA-97-0137-3026: New York City Police Department, Police Communications Section
Both management and union representatives were concerned that conditions at the 911 Call Center were noisy and highly stressful. This study looked at workers from the New York City Police 911 Emergency Response Communication Center to learn more about their level of stress. NIOSH investigators concluded that conditions at the 911 Call Center contributed to the increased reporting of depressive symptoms and that a health hazard did exist, but that noise levels were not inappropriately high.

Rotating shift work and menstrual cycle characteristics
In a study involving female nurses, those women who reported working rotating shifts for 20 or more months were more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles.

Stressors and adverse outcomes for female construction workers
This study looked at how job stressors, such as sexual harassment and gender- based discrimination, can affect female construction workers’ job satisfaction and psychological and physical health. The study found having responsibility for others' safety and having support from supervisors and male coworkers were related to greater job satisfaction. The study also found perceptions of overcompensation at work and job uncertainty were associated with insomnia. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination were found to be related to reports of increased nausea and headaches.

Suicide in police work: exploring potential contributing influences
In a study of influences on thinking about suicide (suicide ideation) among male and female police officers, depressive symptoms were higher among women than men officers. The association between depression and ideation was stronger among unmarried women officers than married women officers.

Workplace Safety and Women (Podcast) (Running time: 7:41)
This women's health podcast focuses on four important issues for women at work: job stress, work schedules, reproductive health, and workplace violence. (Created: 5/11/2009 by Office of Womens Health (OWH) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)).

Work schedule during pregnancy and spontaneous abortion
This study looked at whether work schedule can affect the risk of miscarriage in U.S. nurses. Researchers found night work and long work hours may be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage.

Additional Resources

NIOSH Science Blog: Women

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Worker Health Chartbook, 2004. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-146.
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