Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Gender Differences in the Effect of Weekly Working Hours on Occupational Injury Risk in the United States Working Population

Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Gender Differences in the Effect of Weekly Working Hours on Occupational Injury Risk in the United States Working Population

Article excerpt

Objectives Long working hours can lead to an accumulation in fatigue that may increase worker's risk of injury. However, it is not known if this association is different formen and women. Our aim was, therefore, to investigate gender differences in the effect of weekly working hours on occupational injury risk.

Methods The US National Health Interview Survey is a clustered, stratified, cross-sectional sample representative of the US population, collected using in-household interviews. We pooled seven years of data (2004-2010) comprising 96 915 employed workers. Annualized injury rates per 100 workers were estimated for men and women in categories of weekly working hours (<30, 31-40, 41-50, >50 hours/week). Additionally, injury risk was predicted using weighted logistic regression models by weekly working hour categories, stratified by gender, including age, ethnicity, education, type of pay, occupation, body mass index, usual sleep duration, and psychological distress as covariates.

Results Of 96 915 workers, 705 (0.75%) reported an injury in the last 3 months. Injury rates were higher among men and increased with increasing working hours for both genders. However, results of the adjusted logistic regression model indicated an interactive effect of working hours and gender on injury risk [odds ratio (OR) 1.02, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.00-1.03). Injury risk increased among women working 41-50 hours/week(OR 1.51, 95% CI 1.03-2.21) and >50 hours/week (OR 1.69,95% CI 1.06-2. 70) compared to 3 1-40 hours/week but not among men.

Conclusions The findings indicate an increase in injury risk with increasing working hours among women but not men.

Key terms epidemiology; occupational safety; sleep; woman; work hour.

The average number of hours worked per week has increased by about one hour in the United States during the last two decades, a pattern of work style contrary to other economies, eg, the European Union and Japan where weekly hours have declined by about two and five hours, respectively, over the same time period ( 1 ). Extending hours of work inevitably leads to a reduction in time for recovery from work-related fatigue and sleep during rest periods (2), as well as an increase in exposure time to occupational strains and work conditions that are potentially hazardous. As a consequence, performance deteriorates, and the risk of errors and injuries or "accidents" on the job increases (3-8). Thus, a growing base of empirical evidence indicates a negative impact of long working hours on employees' safety (9-12).

Additionally, individual factors (eg, demographic characteristics, mental health, and health-related measures, such as obesity or physical fitness) and workrelated characteristics (eg, physical demands) are associated with weekly working hours (5, 13-16) and at the same time influence occupational injury risk (14, 1 7-24). These factors might thus confound the relation between working hours and injury risk.

Among demographic factors, work schedule design has been associated with different effects on occupational injury risk among men and women. While men generally show higher injury rates than women, women appear to have a greater risk while working on weekends and are more likely to experience an injury when working in rotating shifts (25, 26). On the other hand, results of a recent study based on the Canadian population indicate that the increase in injury risk across weekly working hours is slightly stronger among men than women (23). However, this study did not control for sleep effects.

Women still work substantially longer hours undertaking household and related activities compared to men (27, 28) and spend more time away from work due to domestic responsibilities (29). Thus, time for recovery and sleep might be decreased, elevating the fatigue-related impact of longer working hours among women. This has been supported by studies demonstrating reduced work ability (28) and higher musculoskeletal disorders (30) among women working longer hours combined with domestic workload. …

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