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Occupational health

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Although paid work is generally considered to be beneficial to health, injuries and exposures in the workplace may contribute to poor health, especially for workers from lower socioeconomic classes and for men more than women. In fact, the socioeconomic gradient in health status is in part mediated by workplace conditions.[7]

During working years, the risk of injury in the work environment is greater for those in less privileged socioeconomic groups.[8] A Swedish study showed that the rates of workplace injury were higher among farmers and manual workers than self-employed and salaried workers.[9] In addition to injury, rates of long term absence from work increase with decreasing social status. Another study of workplace conditions showed that after four years of employment, blue collar workers were ten times more likely to have a sick leave resulting from a musculoskeletal injury than white collar workers.[8]

In both of these studies, the relationship between workplace injury and social status was more pronounced for men than women. This is in keeping with the fact that Canadian men aged 15-29 are at greatest risk of suffering a work-related injury, and suffer injuries at a rate of 43 per 100,000.[3]

1.

Can you think of ways in which the workplace exposures of lower and higher income workers might differ?

2.

Why men might experience more workplace injuries than women?

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3. Federal, Provincial and Territorial Advisory Committee on Population Health. Toward a healthy future: Second report on the health of Canadians. 1999.

7. Vahtera, J, Virtanen, P, Kivimaki, M, Pennti, J. Workplace as an origin of health inequalities. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 1999;53:399-407.

8. Laflamme, L, Eilert-Petersson, E. Injury risks and socioeconomic groups in different settings. European Journal of Public Health, 2001;11:309-131.

9. UNPAC. Women and the economy. Available at: http://unpac.ca/economy/wagegap.html. Accessed August 2005.

All references for this section