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Gendered working environments as a determinant of mental health inequalities: a systematic review of 27 studies
  1. Allison Milner1,
  2. Anna Joy Scovelle1,
  3. Tania King1,
  4. Claudia Marck1,
  5. Ashley McAllister1,2,
  6. Anne Kavanagh1,
  7. Marissa Shields1,
  8. Eszter Török3,
  9. Humaira Maheen1,
  10. Adrienne O'Neil1,4
  1. 1 Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3 Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  4. 4 Deakin University, IMPACT – the Institute for Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation, School of Medicine, Barwon Health, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Anna Joy Scovelle, MSPGH, The University of Melbourne, Carlton, VIC 3010, Australia; anna.scovelle{at}


Background ‘Gendered working environments’ describes the ways in which (1) differential selection into work, (2) variations in employment arrangements and working hours, (3) differences in psychosocial exposures and (4) differential selection out of work may produce varied mental health outcomes for men and women. The aim of this study was to conduct a systematic review to understand gender differences in mental health outcomes in relation to the components of gendered working environments.

Methods The review followed a Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) search approach and focused on studies published in 2008–2018. The protocol for the review was prospectively registered with PROSPERO (CRD42019124066).

Findings Across the 27 cohort studies included in the review, we found that (1) there was inconclusive evidence on the effect of occupational gender composition on the mental health of men and women, (2) women’s mental health was more likely to be affected by long working hours than men’s; however, precarious employment was more likely to be negatively associated with men’s mental health, (3) exposure to traditional constructs of psychosocial job stressors negatively affected the mental health of both women and men, and (4) unemployment and retirement are associated with poorer mental health in both genders.

Interpretation The findings from this review indicate that gendered working environments may affect the mental health of both men and women, but the association is dependent on the specific exposure examined. There is still much to be understood about gendered working environments, and future research into work and health should be considered with a gender lens.

  • gender
  • mental health
  • public health

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  • Twitter @AllisonMilner2, @AScovelle, @TaniaLKing, @drclaui, @ash_mcallister, @Kavanagh_AM, @humairamaheen, @DrAdrienneOneil

  • Contributors AM conceived the article. AM and AJS completed the literature searches and preliminary screening. AM, AJS, TK, CM, AMc, MS, ET, HM and AO were involved in screening of full-texts and data extraction. AJS and MS completed the quality assessment. All authors were involved in synthesising the findings. AM and AJS drafted the article with feedback from all other authors. All authors contributed to the final version of the manuscript and approved it for publication.

  • Funding Funding provided by the Australian Research Council LP180100035 (AM, TLK, AK, AO). AMc supported by a Swedish Research for Health, Working Life and Welfare Postdoctoral Fellowship (2017-01998). AM supported by a Victorian Health and Medical Research Fellowship (Department of Health and Human Services, Victorian Government). AO supported by a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship (#101160). AJS supported by an NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship (#1191061) and the Australian Government RTP Scheme. CM supported by an Early Career Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council (ID: 1120014). MS is supported by a Melbourne Disability Institute Scholarship, and the Australian Government RTP Scheme.

  • Disclaimer The funder of the review had no role in the design, data extraction, data interpretation or writing of the report.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.