Title

Examining the relationship between occupational balance and health in mothers

Start Time

5-10-2012 1:35 PM

End Time

5-10-2012 2:05 PM

Session Type

Event

Abstract

PURPOSE. To explore the concept of occupational balance and its relationship to physical and mental health in mothers with and without a chronic illness (inflammatory arthritis/IA).

METHODS: Three hundred and forty-two women participated in a survey on health, parenting, and household work. Eligibility criteria included having a least one child (under 21) living at home, and for the arthritis group, a rheumatologist-confirmed diagnosis of IA. Four items from prior studies measured attributes of occupational balance: role overload, manageability of occupations, satisfaction with time allocation to occupations, and satisfaction with day’s accomplishments. Health status was measured with the Short Form 36 (SF-36) health survey. Between group differences for mothers with and without arthritis were assessed with t-tests. Associations between occupational balance and health were examined using Pearson correlation coefficients and linear regression.

RESULTS: Participants ranged from 21 to 60 years of age; the arthritis group (n=190) was slightly older than the comparison group (n=152), with a mean age of 43 vs 40 years, p<0.05. Eighty percent were married/living as married. They typically had 2 children at home, ranging from 1 to 6. Women with arthritis were less likely to be employed outside the home than those without arthritis (59% vs 79%, p<0.05) and the mean hours per week in employment was similar (17.5 and 20, respectively). However, women with arthritis reported substantially fewer hours of unpaid work per week, 52 and 68, respectively, p<0.01. Occupational balance items of manageability, time allocation, and daily accomplishments were significantly lower (problematic) in the arthritis group, p<0.001; the difference for role overload was lower in magnitude but still statistically significant, p=0.02. For the sample as a whole, day’s accomplishments was most strongly associated with both physical and mental health components of the SF-36, followed by time allocation, manageability, and role overload.

CONCLUSION: As predicted in theories of occupational or life balance, this study demonstrated an association between four different elements of occupational balance and health status. This is one of the first studies to compare occupational balance of mothers with and without a chronic condition, showing the detrimental impact of arthritis on occupational balance. Examining the construct of occupational balance in samples defined by various occupational roles, in this case mothers, makes both theoretical and empirical contributions to occupational science.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do the findings presented here contribute to existing definitions of occupational balance?
  2. This study showed that mothers’ satisfaction with accomplishing what they set out to do in a day was the strongest predictor of both physical and mental health, more so than their perception of role overload. What implication does this have for understanding the construct of occupational balance and its impact on health?

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Research paper

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Oct 5th, 1:35 PM Oct 5th, 2:05 PM

Examining the relationship between occupational balance and health in mothers

PURPOSE. To explore the concept of occupational balance and its relationship to physical and mental health in mothers with and without a chronic illness (inflammatory arthritis/IA).

METHODS: Three hundred and forty-two women participated in a survey on health, parenting, and household work. Eligibility criteria included having a least one child (under 21) living at home, and for the arthritis group, a rheumatologist-confirmed diagnosis of IA. Four items from prior studies measured attributes of occupational balance: role overload, manageability of occupations, satisfaction with time allocation to occupations, and satisfaction with day’s accomplishments. Health status was measured with the Short Form 36 (SF-36) health survey. Between group differences for mothers with and without arthritis were assessed with t-tests. Associations between occupational balance and health were examined using Pearson correlation coefficients and linear regression.

RESULTS: Participants ranged from 21 to 60 years of age; the arthritis group (n=190) was slightly older than the comparison group (n=152), with a mean age of 43 vs 40 years, p<0.05. Eighty percent were married/living as married. They typically had 2 children at home, ranging from 1 to 6. Women with arthritis were less likely to be employed outside the home than those without arthritis (59% vs 79%, p<0.05) and the mean hours per week in employment was similar (17.5 and 20, respectively). However, women with arthritis reported substantially fewer hours of unpaid work per week, 52 and 68, respectively, p<0.01. Occupational balance items of manageability, time allocation, and daily accomplishments were significantly lower (problematic) in the arthritis group, p<0.001; the difference for role overload was lower in magnitude but still statistically significant, p=0.02. For the sample as a whole, day’s accomplishments was most strongly associated with both physical and mental health components of the SF-36, followed by time allocation, manageability, and role overload.

CONCLUSION: As predicted in theories of occupational or life balance, this study demonstrated an association between four different elements of occupational balance and health status. This is one of the first studies to compare occupational balance of mothers with and without a chronic condition, showing the detrimental impact of arthritis on occupational balance. Examining the construct of occupational balance in samples defined by various occupational roles, in this case mothers, makes both theoretical and empirical contributions to occupational science.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do the findings presented here contribute to existing definitions of occupational balance?
  2. This study showed that mothers’ satisfaction with accomplishing what they set out to do in a day was the strongest predictor of both physical and mental health, more so than their perception of role overload. What implication does this have for understanding the construct of occupational balance and its impact on health?