Determinants of Health

4. Employment

In the 1996­–97 National Population Health Survey, more women reported high work stress levels than men in every age category. Women aged 20 to 24 were almost three times as likely to report high work stress than the average Canadian worker.1

Work – unsafe, stressful work. Too much of it. Too little of it. None of it. Unpaid work at home. Work without enough time off to go to a doctor. Work without benefits to pay for medications.

It all results in poorer health. A woman who has work / life balance and a stable job with little stress is healthier and more likely to live longer.

Paid work gives people a sense of who they are and what they are doing in life. But it’s not just about the money. At a job, we meet others and get to know them. Without one, people have a reduced life expectancy, and get more health problems than people who have a job.

Employment means a lot to a person’s physical, mental and social health.

A woman with HIV might struggle to keep her job, or might struggle to get one. To find money for immediate needs like food, rent and her kids, it only makes sense that she would risk a lot doing whatever work she can get.

So how to ease that pressure? Affordable housing, support with chores at home, assisting with a job search – it all helps.

People who are chronically unemployed or underemployed may experience increased stress and lowered resistance to disease. People living in constant stress may use alcohol or drugs as a way of coping with that stress.2


More from Shared Health Exchange

1What Makes Canadians Healthy or Unhealthy?, Underlying Premises and Evidence Table, Public Health Agency of Canada, online as of June 2011
2Women and HIV/AIDS: The Context, Canadian AIDS Society, online as of June 2011