Do work exposures and their effects differ for men and women? A systematic review

Reasons for the study

Male and female differences in the area of work and health can manifest in two different ways. First, the incidence and prevalence of work exposures or work-related health outcomes can differ by gender/sex. For example, men are exposed to greater noise exposures at work than women; women have higher rates of upper body repetitive movement injuries than men. Second, the relationship between work exposures and outcomes can differ for men and women. For example, the relationship between low job control and hypertension is stronger for men than for women; the relationship between shift work and work injury is stronger for women than for men.

Because of these gender/sex differences, policy responses to research in these two areas will (or should) differ. Where the incidence or prevalence of work exposures or health outcomes differ for men and women, prevention approaches should focus on reducing gender/sex inequalities. However, where the relationship between work exposures and outcome differ, prevention approaches should focus on being gender- or sex-specific.

As policy-makers become increasingly interested in taking gender/sex differences into account in their primary prevention approaches, there is a need to summarize the existing research evidence to find where inequalities in exposures and health outcomes exist between men and women.

Objectives of the study

  • To conduct a systematic review (using narrative and best-evidence syntheses methods) of existing evidence regarding sex and gender differences in exposures to workplace hazards and work-related health outcomes
  • To provide knowledge-users and stakeholders with a database of the material found in this review, as well as a synthesis report
  • To identify gaps and inconsistencies in the research related to working conditions and their differing health effects on men and women in order to help guide future research and primary prevention activities

Anticipated results/impact

This project will provide knowledge-users—including labour organizations, employer associations, government agencies (e.g. ministries of labour and workers’ compensation boards), workplace parties (e.g. health, safety and disability management professionals) and groups interested in gender/sex issue—with comprehensive information on the contexts in which gender/sex inequalities to work exposures and health outcomes arise, and where gender-specific approaches to the prevention of work injury and illness may or may not be required.

Project status

Ongoing

Research team

  • Aviroop Biswas, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
  • Peter Smith, Institute for Work & Health
  • Emma Irvin, Institute for Work & Health
  • Mieke Koehoorn, University of British Columbia

Participating organizations

Canadian Institutes for Health Research—Institute for Gender and Health
Unifor

Funded by

WorkSafeBC