Published Papers - Abstract 96

Warner-Smith P, Mishra GD & Dobson AJ. Who is married to whom in Australia, and how does it affect women's health? Social Science and Medicine, ; :

The conventional model for measuring a woman’s socioeconomic status (SES) ascribes her social location to the occupation of her husband. The individualistic model locates her according to her own occupational status. Given the well-documented links between SES and health, an analysis using the first model would suggest that the health of a professional woman who is married to a skilled manual worker would more closely resemble that of the working class than the middle class. However, using the second model, the health of the professional woman would be more characteristic of the middle class. In this paper we investigate the proposition that the self-reported health status of married women is associated with both their own SES, as indicated by occupation and income, and that of their partner. Data from the mid aged cohort of the 1998 follow-up survey of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health are drawn on to show that the self reported health, both physical and mental, of partnered women in lower income groups is positively associated with their own income as well as that of their partner, but that the effect disappears at higher levels of income. Associations between low income and poor physical health have been generally well documented, but less research has focused on associations between women’s SES and mental health. It is postulated here that mechanisms of control related to autonomy in paid work as well as perceived relative deprivation associated with the distribution of household labour, may be implicated in these findings in regard to mental health.