Household Income and Psychological Distress: Exploring Women's Paid and Unpaid Work as Mediators

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jun 13;18(12):6402. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18126402.


Research suggests that a socioeconomic gradient in employed adults’ mental health may be partially mediated by their work conditions. Largely ignored in this body of research is the potential role of unpaid domestic labor. The objectives of this paper were to determine whether socioeconomic disparities in mental health were present in a sample of employed, partnered mothers, and if so, identify the intervening mechanisms which contributed to the disparity. Participants for this cross-sectional study were 512 women recruited from an online research panel of residents living in Saskatchewan, Canada. Household income was the primary exposure and psychological distress was the dependent variable. Potential mediators included material deprivation, job control, job demands, work-family conflict, and the conditions of domestic labor. Descriptive analyses followed by simple and multiple mediation analyses were performed. Lower income was associated with greater distress, with material deprivation, work-family conflict, and inequity in responsibility for domestic work acting as mediators. These results suggest that in addition to more well-established mechanisms, the conditions of unpaid domestic labor, particularly how that labor is shared within households, may play a role in the genesis of mental health inequities among employed partnered mothers. Limitations of the study are discussed as are implications for future research.

PMID:34199194 | DOI:10.3390/ijerph18126402