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Disparities in health and the work environment

Margaret M. Weden, MHS, Population & Family Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, 3501 N. Calvert St. #3, Baltimore, MD 21218, 443-854-5536, mweden@jhsph.edu and Nan M. Astone, PhD, Department of Population and Family Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, 61 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21205.

The work environment provides a critical context through which social and economic inequalities lead to health disparities. In order to consider the life course processes through which early structural disadvantage can lead to later chronic disease, disability and premature mortality, we relate changes in the work environment with changes in health behaviors. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979-1998, we model trajectories of smoking cessation, employment, unemployment, and exit from the labor force among the three most prevalent US ethnic groups. For nearly all men and women in these ethnic groups, the likelihood of cessation is highest among the employed and declines respectively for those unemployed and those out of the labor force. However, for African American men, there is little difference in cessation between employed and unemployed men; furthermore, those out of the labor force are more likely to quit smoking, and this effect increases with age. Previous research has associated higher strain with poorer health behaviors, and African American men are much more likely to work in the types of jobs considered high strain. The finding that for African American men exit from the labor force actually have healthier behaviors is consistent with this research. These findings appear to underscore the social inequities which have been associated with occupational disadvantage and poorer psychosocial experiences in the work environment for African American men.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Social Inequalities, Health Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Race, Class, and Hierarchy: A Closer Look at Health Inequalities

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA