Vol.32-No.04 April 1,1993
Few studies of working women and stress are avilable in Japan. This paper examines the relationship of a women's career and mental stress.
2. General Situation of Working Women and Stress
Let us first see the research conducted in 1988 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute for Labour (TMIL). TMIL got deeper insights into the life events experience by workers during a prior one year period and analyzed perceived magnitudeds of mental stress they went through in dealing with these events (See table 1).
On the whole, women experienced fewer stressful events than men did in their working lives. In addition, men went through more stressful events in their working lives, while women experienced them in their private life domains. This suggests that males adopt a different attitude toward work and have different sources of stress from females.
What is more, the frequency of events and the magnitude of stress for each sex were calculated as important indicators to cope with stress related problems in industry. In the area of working life, 53.7 percent of men cited "unable to make greater output" as the most significant source of stress. On the other hand, 37.5 percent of women listed four events involving interpersonal relationships, including "transfer or retirement of a person who undersood me," as an important sources of stress.
Next, let us examine the relationships between characteristics of labor and the working environment to stress from a survey on "Fatigue and stress of working females" conducted in 1992 by Asakura and others at the TMIL. The survey assessed characteristics of labor and the working environment according to 36 items, including the qunatitative and qualitative burden of work, time pressures, extent of discretion, remuneration, personnel business characteristics, responsibility for people, human relationships in the workplace, sexual harassment, role conflict, duty ambiguity, career development and the organizational climate. Subjects were those engaged in services, such as retail trade, finance and insurance, travel service and medical care. Nine factors were extraceted through the factor analysis of the 36 items, and relations with the stress response, such as a sense of fulfilling work and an SDS score (score of yardstick for depression), were examined by factors. It was pointed out from this survey that such labor and workplace environment characteristics as: no chance of displaying and developing one's ability; role and duty ambiguity; the work-oriented, freedom-oppressive working atmosphere; and problems arising from poor organizational relations were sources of occupational stress which lead to lower women's work moral and intensified their depressive mood.
3. Work and Mental Stress for Female Middle Managers
The relationships between characteristics of female middle managers' work and stress were examined for position-wise analysis, based upon the TMIL 1992 data. Here positions were categorized into four groups, general staff (no title), organizational leaders, chief clerks and heads, section managers and up, for comparison. Those who are leaders and up were termed managers.
Looking first at personnel management for women, those who are organizational leaders and above, rather than general workers, positively accepted corporate personnel management.(See Table 2). This may be natural since those in management posts have experienced themselves that chances of being trained, taking courses and wages on an equal basis with male colleagues, are provided to them and have resulted in promotion.
Table 3 shows characteristics of the workplace and working environment. Concerning fulfillment and development of one's ability, the higher position women held, the higher the score they got, showing that they could give full play to their abilities. although, work is not everything for self-fulillment, positions are strongly related to self-realization.
However, as women held higher post, they also had a heavier responsibility for people, making it difficult for them to make flexible job arrangements. Furthermore, in terms of worker relationships, those women in middle level positions, such as leaders of workplace and chief clerks, rather than general workers, encountered serious problems and conflicts.
As we have seen, characteristics of the workplace and the working environment surrounding women in management, incorporated both elements of elevated work morale as well as heavier burden of work and more occupational stress.
Furthermore, comparison of mental stress indicators showed that the higher positions the workers held, the stronger the tendency was for them to possess high work morale. However, leaders of the workplace tended to be more depressed than others, but without any significant differences by position between them.
It is thus safe to say that depending on what positions they hold, workers have different sources of stress which could impair mental health. Moreover, how the workers accept their own work, their workplace and working environment rather than their positions per se, seemed more important as a predictor of mental health.
When women workers have a male boss who is not active in fostering and promoting womenm, they are likely to feel unable to develop and display their own abilities, thus experiencing more mental stress. Here let us see the effects of corporate personnel management regarding "promotion" on mental health. As shown in fig.1, SDS scores were clearly different for all ages depending on how women workers perceived to personnel management policies on promotion. In other words, it seems that when they accept personnel management as a system which also allows women to be promoted, they feel less depressed and mentally healthy.
4.Women in Dual-Career Families and Mental Health
Lastly, let us study work those working women who have a family and their mental health. Here women engaged in the aforementioned three businesses as well as in medicine (TMIL 1992) were analyzed. In 1985 Sekaran, U. gethered data on 166 married couples in dual-career families and found that the mechanism of relationships between the stressors (work factors and non-work factors) and the mental stress responses differed to a great extent between men and momen. With no data for men available, data for women in double-income families were used to check to see if a similar phenomenon is observable. Variables available for analysis which are different from Sekaran's were utilized. However, the same statistical methods as Sekaran's were adopted using multiple regression analyses with work morale (a substitute variable for satisfaction with duties); satisfaction with leisure and family life (a substitute variable for satisfaction with life); and depression (mental health) as objective variables. A path diagram (fig.2) was drawn based upon path coefficients of these.
More explanatory variables gathered in the working-life domain, with no contributing factors to satisfaction with leisure and family life observable. Six variables accounted significantly for work morale. Among the six, ability fulfillment and development was the largest positive factor (ƒÀ=0.447) for elevated morale, while on the other hand, role and duty ambiguity was the biggest negative factor (ƒÀ=0.-0.272).
Work morale failed to account significantly for the extent of mental stress and a path coefficient (ƒÀ=0.-0.331) of satisfaction with leisure and family life was significant. Variables were different, but a substantially similar phenomenon as observed by Sekaran, it is fair to say, is recognizable also in Japan.
At the moment, women feel more oppressed by family life than men do. Family life affected by multi-faceted role conflict and occupational stress lowered women's satisfaction with an individual's life, which in turn led to poor mental health.
Yamazaki, Y., Asakura, T. and Nakamura, K., "Worker's Life and Health in the Wake of Technological Revolution (Part 2) - Centering around Office Workers" in Rodo Eisei Kenkyu No.9, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute for Labour, 1988.
Asakura, T., Yamazaki, Y. and Hashimoto, S., "Fatigue and Stress of Working Women" in Rodo Eisei Kenkyu No.13, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute for Labour.
Sekaran, U., The Path to Mental Health: An Explanatory Study of Husbands and Wives in Dualcareer Families, Journal of Occupational Psychology, 58, 129-137, 1985.
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