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Multiple Social Roles, Health, and Sickness Absence—A Five-Year Follow-Up Study of Professional Women in Sweden

Journal article
Authors Carin Staland Nyman
Lena Spak
Gunnel Hensing
Published in Women & Health
Volume 52
Issue 4
Pages 336-351
ISSN 0363-0242
Publication year 2012
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Pages 336-351
Language en
Subject categories Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


The aim of this study was to analyze associations between changes in social roles and physical health, mental well-being, psychiatric disorder, and long-term sickness absence over a five-year period. The study was part of a general population-based multipurpose project. Professional women from six birth cohorts born in 1935, 1945, 1955, 1965, 1970, or 1975 (N = 532) were interviewed twice. Self-rated information on physical health, mental well-being, long-term sickness absence, and changes in social roles was used. Information on psychiatric disorders was based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-III-R and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV diagnoses. Multivariate logistic regressions were adjusted for age, socio-economic position, alcohol dependence and abuse, and health at baseline. An increase in number of social roles was associated with lower odds for poor mental well-being, odds ratio (OR) 0.4 (confidence interval [CI] 0.2 to 0.8), while a decrease was associated with higher odds for poor mental well-being, OR 4.5 (CI 1.8 to 11.0), psychiatric disorder, OR 2.6 (1.0 to 6.8), and sickness absence, OR 4.4 (1.6 to 11.7). The results indicated that an increase in number of social roles might be protective against poor mental well-being, while a decrease in number of roles might be related to increased psychiatric disorders and long-term sickness absence. More studies on long-term health implications of gender-specific experiences are needed.

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