Predicting Self-Assessed Health Status in Women: What Counts for German Midwives and Medical Office Assistants?

Birgit Reime, ScD, MPH Sandra Tomaselli-Reime, RM

Previous studies on women's work and health have tended to summarize women's occupations in broad categories and ignore job-specific workload. We compared occupational characteristics, burnout, health behaviour, and predictors of subjective health status between German midwives and medical office assistants (MOAs). We conducted a crosssectional survey using a standardized questionnaire with items addressing aspects of the occupational biography, job characteristics, unpaid work, social support, gender role orientation, and health status and behaviour. Burnout was measured using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI, Maslach and Jackson 1986). Altogether 386 questionnaires for midwives and 552 questionnaires for MOAs were sent out (response rates 60.4% and 44.1% respectively). Chi-squareand Mann-Whitney-U-tests and multiple regression models were conducted. Significant group differences were found regarding, for example, satisfaction with salary and control. More midwives than MOAs would choose their profession again (p<0.001). The level of burnout was medium for MOAs. Midwives had medium levels of burnout on two subscales and low levels on one subscale of the MBI. Health behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption and exercise did not differ between the occupations. Midwives conducted breast self-examination and ate whole-wheat products more often, whereas MOAs utilized GP and cancer checkups more frequently and consumed more medication. Satisfaction with salary and overtime hours predicted burnout in both occupations. Burnout and smoking were the only overlapping predictors of the health status of midwives and MOAs. Further studies should consider differences between female-dominated occupations when designing appropriate studies on women's health. Increases in salary and reductions in overtime hours may be appropriate interventions for health promotion in these occupations.

midwives, medical office assistants, burnout, health behaviour, health status

This article has been peer-reviewed.


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