Differences between men and women in their risk of work injury and disability: a systematic review

Publication type
Journal article
Biswas A, Harbin S, Irvin E, Johnston H, Begum M, Tiong M, Apedaile D, Koehoorn M, Smith PM
Date published
2022 May 01
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
epub ahead of print
Open Access?

BACKGROUND: Health responses associated with occupational exposures can vary between men and women. AIMS: This study reviewed the work injury and disability risks associated with similar types of occupational exposures for men and women within and across occupations. MATERIALS & METHODS: A systematic review was undertaken of observational studies published between 2009 and 2019. Studies were required to empirically compare men and women for associations between occupational exposures and work injury or disability outcomes. Included studies were appraised for methodological quality and medium to high rated studies were compared for risk differences between men and women. RESULTS: Of 14,006 records identified, 440 articles were assessed for methodological quality, and 33 medium to high rated studies were included and reviewed. Among all occupations, the association between physical exposures, job demands, noise, and repetitive tasks, and injury risk were stronger among men. The relationship between repetitive tasks and sickness absence was stronger among women. Most studies examining psychological exposures found no risk differences for men and women across occupations. Men were at higher injury risk in certain occupations in primary and secondary industry sectors involving physical exposures and some chemical/biological exposures. Women were at higher injury risk for the physical demands and repetitive tasks of health care and aluminum production occupations. CONCLUSION: This review found that men and women can have different work injury and disability risks, both across and within the same occupations, for some physical exposures and to a lesser extent for some chemical and biological exposures. These differences might be a result of occupation-specific task differences