Do your workplace health policies and programs address women’s health issues?

There are many biological differences between men and women, though not all are visible or obvious. When it comes to work and health, how different are women and men?

There are a number of ongoing research programs that are exploring the differing effects of work on women and men with respect to chronic disease, injury risk and injury recovery.

The most frequent cause of premature death in women in Canada is heart disease and stroke. However, heart attack symptoms go unrecognized in 53% of women. While a typical sign of heart attack is chest pain, women can experience a heart attack without any chest pressure, thus making it harder to identify.1

Women may experience light-headedness, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue or upper back pressure. Thus heart attack may initially be mistaken stress or anxiety, indigestion or acid reflux, muscle pain, asthma or flu.1

According to research by the Institute for Work and Health (IWH), women who work more than 45 hours per week face a 63% greater risk of developing diabetes than women who work fewer hours. In contrast, diabetes tends to be less common in men who work longer hours.2

While the exact reasons for the link between long work hours and the risks of diabetes in women were not identified, the study’s lead author, Mahée Gilbert-Ouimet, suggested that responsibilities at home such as child-rearing and house chores, may be a factor. Though women work the same number of hours per week as men, they may experience an imbalance in work pressures at home.2

Prolonged stress has been noted to increase the secretion of cortisol which can lead to a number of difficulties, including increased blood sugar, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression.

Dr. Julie Côté, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education at McGill University, notes that women report pain, discomfort and other symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) about twice as often as men, while men are more likely to experience lower back injuries.3

The higher risk of MSDs for women may be due to both differences in biology (sex) and differences in social roles and behaviours (gender). For example, women have a higher proportion of type 1 (slow twitch) vs. type 2 (fast twitch) muscle fibres compared to men, which is why women have higher endurance and men have more strength. Gender differences that may explain the higher incidence of MSDs include how women move, respond to fatigue, perceive pain, the jobs that have been assigned, and the roles and responsibilities women have at home.3

When considering what kinds of workplace adaptations may prevent work-related injuries and health-related issues, the differences between men and women are important to consider.

How can your organization benefit from targeted OH&S solutions?

Acclaim Ability Management works with management, unions and workers to provide a full range of Occupational Injury services and Ability Management programs designed to identify and address the many complex facets of disability that employers face every day.

Delivered by qualified professionals who are experienced in industry-specific sectors—from construction, manufacturing and mining to healthcare and retail—we provide safety awareness, job hazard analysis, employment testing and many other proactive health and safety procedures, programs and training, which can reduce accidents, lower their associated costs and increase productivity.

Learn how Acclaim’s Ability Management Consultants can help improve workplace health and safety in your organization. You can also email or call us at 877.867.6064.

1Information sourced from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
2Information sourced from Canadian HR Reporter
3Sourced from Institute for Work and Health

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