5th European Congress on Menopause

Lorraine Dennerstein, AO, MBBS, PhD, FRANZCP, DPM


July 19, 2000

In This Article

Work and Health

With 80% of the Seattle sample described above in the paid workforce, and similar figures in many other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, the effect of work on women's mood is of increasing importance. This was the subject of the July 2, presentation by Associate Professor Aila Collins, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.[10] They assessed the effect on health outcomes of women's perception of work role in a population-based sample of 150 Swedish women followed annually for 5 years. They found that women who rated their work as important to them had more favorable health profiles in terms of lipid levels (lower total and LDL cholesterol), lower systolic blood pressure, and lower weight gain over 5 years.

The investigators have now begun a more detailed study of the role of work in women's health and well-being. Initial results were reported from a population sample of 950 women. Nineteen percent of the women reported burnout (expressed as feelings of mental and physical exhaustion, general fatigue, fatigue particularly in the morning, the feeling of having "had enough"). Job strain was found to be related to perceptions of stress at work, of work being too demanding, thinking of work-related problems during leisure time, not satisfied with the division of work and leisure time, and feeling tired after work.

Step-wise multiple regression found that burnout was related to depressed mood, low self-rated health, low job control, physically demanding work, and lack of social support. Depressed mood was associated with perceptions that work was not important, feelings of low job control, and low income. Vasomotor symptoms were reported more often by migrant women, women of low income, those who experienced job strain, those who had physically demanding jobs, and women of postmenopausal status. Lower self-rated health was associated with burnout, depressed mood, musculoskeletal symptoms, postmenopausal status, and low income. Thus, work-related stress adversely affects women's overall perceptions of their health, mood, and even the experience of specific menopause-associated vasomotor symptoms.

This study fuels the implication that increasing globalization and economic pressures in workplaces are likely to increase the occurrence of burnout, with serious clinical consequences. At annual health assessments, physicians should ask patients about their perceptions of work-related stress and look for signs of impending burnout. In addition, both employer and employee education is needed to encourage strategies that prevent burnout and enable employees to better manage their workload.


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