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Richard Doty

Eliza Pavalko
Sociology Department

Last modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2002

IU sociologist says working helps physical and emotional health of women

Middle-aged women in the workplace generally have better physical and emotional health than those who aren't employed, according to Eliza Pavalko, associate professor of sociology at Indiana University, who has studied the effects of work on women's health for more than 10 years.

With grants from the National Institute on Aging that total more than $800,000, Pavalko is exploring the effects of women's work and family roles on their physical and emotional health.

"Our studies involving more than 5,000 subjects nationwide show that middle-aged women in their 50s and 60s who are consistently in the labor force are healthier than those who are intermittently employed or consistently out of the labor force," she explained. Health benefits from working may include a greater number of personal relationships, greater physical activity, and the economic benefits of greater assets and income.

Pavalko currently is expanding her research to other generations of women in the workplace. "How these issues affect women who are in their 30s and 40s today is something we need to explore, so we can study the long-term effects," she said. "We want to study the generational differences in the housework that women do."

She has a new study accepted for publication that examines the health impact of discrimination on middle-aged women and explores whether there are different health effects of discrimination for white and black women.