Making Work Healthier

The world of work has a major impact on everyone’s lives and health and can promote and prevent good health. For men in particular, work is:

  • The leading predictor of positive wellbeing
  • A cause of death and illness
  • A great setting to deliver health programs
  • A predictor of poor health (for low status work)
  • Better for men’s health than being out of work

Research shows that while work can impact everyone’s health, the health risks and health benefits of work have a more profound impact on men. The reasons for this include the fact that men are more likely to be employed, work full time, be their household’s main earner and work in high risk environments.

Men spend twice as many hours in paid work as work as women, doubling their exposure to the risks and benefits of work. For example, men account for:

  • 92% of workplace deaths
  • 72% of work-related disease
  • 2 in 3 serious claims for workers’ compensation

In terms of the positive benefits of work, research on masculinity and men’s health reveals that “job satisfaction” is the strongest predictor of happiness and wellbeing in men and that the feelings of responsibility, control and self-esteem associated with work are linked to preventative self-care behaviours in men. Conversely, “job strain” is known to have a significant negative impact on men’s health.

Broadly speaking, good work is good for everyone, not just men. Poor job status is strongly linked to poor health, while a better job and better working conditions, means better health.

In comparison, being out of work is linked to poor health. This is a significant concern, as the proportion of men who are not in the labour force (NILF) has risen from 5% to around 20% since the 1960s.

Improving men’s health through work means taking action on a number of fronts. It means promoting the benefits of good work for everyone; improving workplace safety; using work as a setting to deliver health programs; identifying ways to reach workers who are missed by employee health initiatives (e.g. self-employed men) and addressing the health needs of NILF men.

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