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More women in the workforce reduces mortality


Watson, Rory (2002). More women in the workforce reduces mortality. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 324(7350), 1352.


A new independent study for the European Commission says that the principal factors influencing patterns of mortality and life expectancy in the European Union and United States relate to economic trends, especially employment rates and economic growth.

Despite well known health risks—ergonomic factors, chemical toxins, dangerous equipment, and environmental pollution—in certain work settings, the report notes that the move towards full employment and in particular the upward trend in the number of women working are important sources of decreased mortality.

The report shows that decreased mortality can be seen in some European countries in the same year that employment increases and in other countries within 24-48 months. Moreover, the beneficial impact on mortality of more people in work can be measured for a further decade.

The converse is equally true. The higher that unemployment is in a given year, the higher the mortality will be over the next decade.

Drawing on quantitative historical analyses of data from the second world war to the present, the report's main conclusion is that the growth in per capita wealth in western Europe is the principal long term factor in the decline in mortality. But it adds that unemployment rates exert an independent and damaging effect on national health.

It uses cross sectional studies on unemployment rates and mortality, comparing certain British counties with US states, to show that the two phenomena are closely related.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

BMJ: British Medical Journal


Watson, Rory