Mounting evidence suggests that lesbians and bisexual women may be at especially elevated risk for the harmful health effects of alcohol and tobacco use.
We report findings from the California Women’s Health Survey (1998–2000), a large, annual statewide health surveillance survey of California women that in 1998 began to include questions assessing same-gender sexual behavior.
Overall, homosexually experienced women are more likely than exclusively heterosexually experienced women to currently smoke and to evidence higher levels of alcohol consumption, both in frequency and quantity. Focusing on age cohorts, the greatest sexual orientation disparity in alcohol use patterns appears clustered among women in the 26–35-year-old group. We also find that recently bisexually active women report higher and riskier alcohol use than women who are exclusively heterosexually active. By contrast, among homosexually experienced women, those who are recently exclusively homosexually active do not show consistent evidence of at-risk patterns of alcohol consumption.
Findings underscore the importance of considering within-group differences among homosexually experienced women in risk for tobacco and dysfunctional alcohol use.
Alcohol; Tobacco; Sexual minority; Gay; Lesbian; Epidemiology
Do women really sleep more than men? Biomedical and social scientific studies show longer sleep durations for women, a surprising finding given sociological research showing women have more unpaid work and less high-quality leisure time compared to men. We assess explanations for gender differences in time for sleep, including compositional differences in levels of engagement in paid and unpaid labor, gendered responses to work and family responsibilities, and differences in napping, bedtimes, and interrupted sleep for caregiving. We examine the overall gender gap in time for sleep as well as gaps within family life-course stages based on age, partnership, and parenthood statuses. We analyze minutes of sleep from a diary day collected from nationally representative samples of working-age adults in the American Time Use Surveys of 2003 to 2007. Overall and at most life course stages, women slept more than men. Much of the gap is explained by work and family responsibilities and gendered time tradeoffs; as such, gender differences vary across life course stages. The gender gap in sleep time favoring women is relatively small for most comparisons and should be considered in light of the gender gap in leisure time favoring men at all life course stages.
gender; sleep; stratification; time use
This study assessed possible associations between recessions and changes in the magnitude of social disparities in foregone health care, building on prior studies that have linked recessions to lowered health care use.
Data from the 2006 to 2010 waves of the National Health Interview Study were used to examine levels of foregone medical, dental and mental health care and prescribed medications. Differences by race or ethnicity and education were compared before the great recession of 2007 to 2009, during the early recession, and later in the recession and in its immediate wake.
Foregone care rose for working-aged adults overall in the 2 recessionary periods compared with the pre-recession. For multiple types of pre-recession care, foregoing care was more common for African Americans and Hispanic Americans and less common for Asian Americans than for Whites. Less-educated individuals were more likely to forego all types of care pre-recession. Most disparities in foregone care were stable over the recession, though the African American-White gap in foregone medical care increased, as did the Hispanic-White gap and education gap in foregone dental care.
Our findings support the fundamental cause hypothesis, as even during a recession in which more advantaged groups may have had unusually high risk of losing financial assets and employer-provided health insurance, they maintained their relative advantage in access to health care. Attention to the macroeconomic context of social disparities in health care use is warranted.
Forgone Health Care; Great Recession; Disparities
Prior longitudinal studies of negative working conditions and depression generally have used a single exposure indicator, such as job strain, and have required consistent availability of the measure across waves and selection of only those working at all measurement points.
Up to four waves of the American’s Changing Lives study (1986-2001/2) and item response theory (IRT) models were used to generate wave-specific measures of negative working conditions. Random-intercept linear mixed models assessed the association between the score and depressive symptoms.
Adjusting for covariates, negative working conditions were associated with significantly greater depressive symptoms.
A summary score of negative working conditions allowed use of all available working conditions measures and predicted depressive symptoms in a nationally-representative sample of U.S. workers followed for up to 15 years. Linear mixed models also allowed retention of intermittent workers.
In this review, we touch on a broad array of ways that work is linked to health and health disparities for individuals and societies. First focusing on the health of individuals, we discuss the health differences between those who do and do not work for pay, and review key positive and negative exposures that can generate health disparities among the employed. These include both psychosocial factors like the benefits of a high status job or the burden of perceived job insecurity, as well as physical exposures to dangerous working conditions like asbestos or rotating shift work. We also provide a discussion of the ways differential exposure to these aspects of work contributes to social disparities in health within and across generations. Analytic complexities in assessing the link between work and health for individuals, such as health selection, are also discussed. We then touch on several contextual level associations between work and the health of populations, discussing the importance of the occupational structure in a given society, the policy environment that prevails there, and the oscillations of the macroeconomy for generating societal disparities in health. We close with a discussion of four areas and associated recommendations that draw on this corpus of knowledge but would push the research on work, health and inequality toward even greater scholarly and policy relevance.
The gradual changes in cohort composition that occur as a result of selective mortality processes are of interest to all aging research. We present the first illustration of changes in the distribution of specific cohort characteristics that arise purely as a result of selective mortality. We use data on health, wealth, education, and other covariates from two cohorts (the AHEAD cohort, born 1900–23 and the HRS cohort, born 1931–41) included in the Health and Retirement Survey, a nationally representative panel study of older Americans spanning nearly two decades (N=14,466). We calculate sample statistics for the surviving cohort at each wave. Repeatedly using only baseline information for these calculations so that there are no changes at the individual level (what changes is the set of surviving respondents at each specific wave), we obtain a demonstration of the impact of mortality selection on the cohort characteristics. We find substantial changes in the distribution of all examined characteristics across the nine survey waves. For instance, the median wealth increases from about $90,000 to $130,000 and the number of chronic conditions declines from 1.5 to 1 in the AHEAD cohort. We discuss factors that influence the rate of change in various characteristics. The mortality selection process changes the composition of older cohorts considerably, such that researchers focusing on the oldest old need to be aware of the highly select groups they are observing, and interpret their conclusions accordingly.
Mortality selection; cohorts; aging; cohort composition
Although racial/ethnic disparities in health have been well-characterized in biomedical, public health, and social science research, the determinants of these disparities are still not well-understood. Chronic psychosocial stress related specifically to the American experience of institutional and interpersonal racial discrimination may be an important determinant of these disparities, as a growing literature in separate scientific disciplines documents the adverse health effects of stress and the greater levels of stress experienced by non-White compared to White Americans. However, the empirical literature on the importance of stress for health and health disparities specifically due to racial discrimination, using population-representative data, is still small and mixed. In this paper, we explore the association between a novel measure of racially-salient chronic stress – “racism-related vigilance” – and sleep difficulty. We found that, compared to the White adults in our sample, Black (but not Hispanic) adults reported greater levels of vigilance. This vigilance was positively associated with sleep difficulty to similar degrees for all racial/ethnic groups in our sample (White, Black, Hispanic). Black adults reported greater levels of sleep difficulty compared to White adults. This disparity was slightly attenuated after adjustment for education and income. However, this disparity was completely attenuated after adjustment for racism-related vigilance. We found similar patterns of results for Hispanic compared to White adults, however, the disparities in sleep difficulty were smaller and not statistically significant. Because of the importance of sleep quality to health, our results suggest that the anticipation of and perseveration about racial discrimination is an important determinant of racial disparities in health.
This study examines the association between maternal health service utilization and household decision-making in Bangladesh. Most studies of the predictors of reproductive health service use focus on women’s reports; however, men are often involved in these decisions as well. Recently, studies have started to explore the association between health outcomes and reports of household decision-making from both husbands and wives as matched pairs. Many studies of household decision-making emphasize the importance of the wife alone making decisions; however, some have argued that joint decision-making between husbands and wives may yield better reproductive health outcomes than women making decisions without input or agreement from their partners. Husbands’ involvement in decision-making is particularly important in Bangladesh because men often dominate household decisions related to large, health-related purchases. We use matched husband and wife reports about who makes common household decisions to predict use of antenatal and skilled delivery care, using data from the 2007 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey. Results from regression analyses suggest that it is important to consider whether husbands and wives give concordant responses about who makes household decisions since discordant reports about who makes these decisions are negatively associated with reproductive health care use. In addition, compared to joint decision-making, husband-only decision-making is negatively associated with antenatal care use and skilled delivery care. Finally, associations between household decision-making arrangements and health service utilization vary depending on whose report is used and the type of health service utilized.
Bangladesh; decision-making; husbands/wives; health service utilization; maternal health
Sleep is essential for health and daily functioning, and social relationships may be a key social factor influencing sleep, yet sleep has been understudied in the literature on social relationships and health. This study used data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States to examine associations between troubled sleep and family contact, social support, and strain. Results show that having strained family relationships is associated with more troubled sleep, while supportive family relationships are associated with less troubled sleep. Family strain is more consequential for sleep than support and sleep troubles are greatest when family relationships are highly strained and provide inadequate emotional support. Family strain is also more harmful to sleep among individuals who are in frequent contact with family members. These findings underscore the importance of focusing on both negative and positive aspects of relationships and highlight the significance of family relationships for sleep.
Few studies have examined geographic variation in hypertension disparities, but studies of other health outcomes indicate that racial residential segregation may help to explain these variations. The authors used data from 8,071 black and white participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999–2006) who were aged 25 years or older to investigate whether black-white hypertension disparities varied by level of metropolitan-level racial residential segregation and whether this was explained by race differences in neighborhood poverty. Racial segregation was measured by using the black isolation index. After adjustment for demographics and individual-level socioeconomic position, blacks had 2.74 times higher odds of hypertension than whites (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.32, 3.25). However, race differences were significantly smaller in low- than in high-segregation areas (Pinteraction = 0.006). Race differences in neighborhood poverty did not explain this heterogeneity, but poverty further modified race disparities: Race differences were largest in segregated, low-poverty areas (odds ratio = 4.14, 95% CI: 3.18, 5.38) and smallest in nonsegregated, high-poverty areas (odds ratio = 1.24, 95% CI: 0.77, 2.01). These findings suggest that racial disparities in hypertension are not invariant and are modified by contextual levels of racial segregation and neighborhood poverty, highlighting the role of environmental factors in the genesis of disparities.
health status disparities; hypertension; prejudice; social environment
A primary cause of high maternal mortality in Bangladesh is lack of access to professional delivery care. Examining the role of the family, particularly the husband, during pregnancy and childbirth is important to understanding women's access to and utilization of professional maternal health services that can prevent maternal mortality. This qualitative study examines husbands' involvement during childbirth and professional delivery care utilization in a rural sub-district of Netrokona district, Bangladesh.
Using purposive sampling, ten households utilizing a skilled attendant during the birth of the youngest child were selected and matched with ten households utilizing an untrained traditional birth attendant, or dhatri. Households were selected based on a set of inclusion criteria, such as approximate household income, ethnicity, and distance to the nearest hospital. Twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted in Bangla with husbands in these households in June 2010. Interviews were transcribed, translated into English, and analyzed using NVivo 9.0.
By purposefully selecting households that differed on the type of provider utilized during delivery, common themes--high costs, poor transportation, and long distances to health facilities--were eliminated as sufficient barriers to the utilization of professional delivery care. Divergent themes, namely husbands' social support and perceived social norms, were identified as underlying factors associated with delivery care utilization. We found that husbands whose wives utilized professional delivery care provided emotional, instrumental and informational support to their wives during delivery and believed that medical intervention was necessary. By contrast, husbands whose wives utilized an untrained dhatri at home were uninvolved during delivery and believed childbirth should take place at home according to local traditions.
This study provides novel evidence about male involvement during childbirth in rural Bangladesh. These findings have important implications for program planners, who should pursue culturally sensitive ways to involve husbands in maternal health interventions and assess the effectiveness of education strategies targeted at husbands.
Most adults spend one third of every day sleeping and another third of most days at work. However, there is little analysis of the possible connections between common workplace experiences and sleep quality. This study uses the longitudinal and nationally-representative Americans’ Changing Lives study to examine whether and how common conditions and experiences at work may “follow workers home” and impinge on their quality of sleep. We also explore how competing stressful experiences at home may influence sleep quality, and whether these are more salient than work experiences. Results show that frequently being bothered or upset at work is associated with changes toward poorer sleep quality, and the association is not explained by stressful experiences at home. These findings are discussed in relation to the sociological literatures on work, stress and emotion.
Numerous recent studies have found that overweight adults experience lower overall mortality than those who are underweight, normal-weight, or obese. These highly publicized findings imply that overweight may be the optimal weight category for overall health via its association with longevity—a conclusion with important public health implications. In this study, the authors examined the association between body mass index (BMI; (weight (kg)/height (m)2)) and 3 markers of health risks using a nationally representative sample of US adults aged 20–80 years (n = 9,255) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2005–2008). Generalized additive models, a type of semiparametric regression model, were used to examine the relations between BMI and biomarkers of inflammation, metabolic function, and cardiovascular function (C-reactive protein, hemoglobin A1c, and high density lipoprotein cholesterol, respectively). The association between BMI and each biomarker was monotonic, with higher BMI being consistently associated with worse health risk profiles at all ages, in contrast to the U-shaped relation between BMI and mortality. Prior results suggesting that the overweight BMI category corresponds to the lowest risk of mortality may not be generalizable to indicators of health risk.
adult; biological markers; body mass index; health; overweight; models, statistical; mortality
We examined changes in diarrhea prevalence and treatment in Brazil between 1986 and 1996. Over this 10-year period there was a small decline in diarrhea prevalence but treatment with oral rehydration therapy (ORT) increased greatly. Deaths due to dehydration were thus averted, although the costly burden of morbidity remained high. The decline in diarrhea prevalence was largely due to changes in the effects of several key covariates, such as breastfeeding, with only a modest role played by socioeconomic change, infrastructure improvements, and other behavioral factors. ORT treatment of diarrhea was essentially unrelated to child and family characteristics, suggesting that the large increase was due to the success of public health efforts to promote its use widely. Our results suggest that the most effective policies for reducing diarrhea prevalence are likely to be further increases in education and the promotion of breastfeeding. Persistent disparities in diarrhea prevalence mean that policies to prevent the disease should be targeted at disadvantaged socioeconomic groups.
Child health; Diarrhea; Brazil; ORT treatment
We analyze the influence of body weight in early adulthood, and changes in weight over time, on self rated health (SRH) as people age into mid-adulthood. While prior research focused on cross-sectional samples of older adults, we use longitudinal data from the NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study (NHEFS) and double-trajectory latent growth models to study the association between body mass index (BMI) and SRH trajectories over twenty years. Results indicate that high BMI in early adulthood and gaining more weight over time are both associated with a faster decline in health ratings. Among white women only, those with a higher BMI at the baseline also report lower initial SRH. A small part of the weight-health associations is due to sociodemographic factors, but not baseline health behaviors or medical conditions. The findings provide new support for the cumulative disadvantage perspective, documenting the increasing health inequalities in a cohort of young adults.
The authors analyzed the association between downward social mobility in subjective social status among 3,056 immigrants to the United States and the odds of a major depressive episode. Using data from the National Latino and Asian American Study (2002–2003), the authors examined downward mobility by comparing immigrants’ subjective social status in their country of origin with their subjective social status in the United States. The dependent variable was the occurrence of a past-year episode of major depression defined according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, criteria. Logistic regression models were used to control for a variety of sociodemographic and immigration-related characteristics. Analyses suggested that a loss of at least 3 steps in subjective social status is associated with increased risk of a depressive episode (odds ratio = 3.0, 95% confidence interval: 1.3, 6.6). Other factors independently associated with greater odds of depression included Latino ethnicity, female sex, having resided for a longer time in the United States, and being a US citizen. The findings suggest that immigrants who experience downward social mobility are at elevated risk of major depression. Policies or interventions focused only on immigrants of low social status may miss another group at risk: those who experience downward mobility from a higher social status.
Asian Americans; depression; emigration and immigration; Hispanic Americans; mental disorders; mental health; social class; social mobility
We examine the effects of job displacement, an involuntary event associated with socioeconomic and psychological decline, on social participation. Using more than 45 years of panel data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, we find that job displacement is associated with significant, long-term lower probabilities of subsequent involvement with various forms of social participation for workers displaced during their prime earnings years; displacement is not associated with lower probabilities of involvement for workers displaced in the years approaching retirement. We also find that post-displacement socioeconomic and psychological decline explain very little of the negative effect of job displacement on social participation, and that a single displacement event, rather than a series of multiple displacement events, is most strongly associated with lower probabilities of social involvement.
Economic recessions, the industrial shift from manufacturing toward service industries, and rising global competition have contributed to uncertainty about job security, with potential consequences for workers’ health. To address limitations of prior research on the health consequences of perceived job insecurity, we use longitudinal data from two nationally-representative samples of the United States population, and examine episodic and persistent perceived job insecurity over periods of about three years to almost a decade. Results show that persistent perceived job insecurity is a significant and substantively important predictor of poorer self-rated health in the American’s Changing Lives (ACL) and Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) samples, and of depressive symptoms among ACL respondents. Job losses or unemployment episodes are associated with perceived job insecurity, but do not account for its association with health. Results are robust to controls for sociodemographic and job characteristics, negative reporting style, and earlier health and health behaviors.
USA; perceived job insecurity; self-rated health; depressive symptoms