Gender differences in the association between unpaid labour and mental health in employed adults: a systematic review

Elsevier, The Lancet Public Health, Volume 7, September 2022
Ervin J., Taouk Y., Alfonzo L.F., Hewitt B., King T.

Globally, billions of hours are spent on unpaid labour every year, a burden that is disproportionately carried by women. However, the potential health effects of unpaid labour have largely been unexplored. This Review examines the gendered association between unpaid labour and mental health among employed adults. We did a search of six databases and examined the association between different forms of unpaid labour and mental health. 19 studies (totalling 70 310 participants) were included. We found substantial heterogeneity, and low-to-moderate methodological quality, in the existing research. Our Review indicates substantial gender differences in exposure to unpaid labour and confirms persistent inequities in the division of unpaid work. Overall, our findings indicate that, among employed adults, unpaid labour is negatively associated with women's mental health, with effects less apparent for men. Globally, women spend a greater number of hours on unpaid labour; this review suggests that inequities in the division of unpaid labour expose women to greater risk of poorer mental health than men.