Postmenopausal women who work tend be in better health than
their unemployed counterparts, according to a new study from South Korea.
Researchers found that employed postmenopausal women were about
34% less likely to have so-called metabolic syndrome – a collection of
obesity-related conditions that raise heart disease risk – compared to
unemployed women of the same age. But one expert pointed out that it's hard to
know whether jobs make women healthy, or if healthy women are just more likely
to have jobs."You wonder if healthy women get hired and less healthy women
get fired. You just don't know," Dr Melissa Wellons, who was not involved
with the new research, told Reuters Health.
Previous studies have found that people who work tend to do
financially better and are more physically active, and that may influence their
risk of metabolic syndrome – which includes high blood pressure and high
cholesterol, a large waistline and insulin resistance.
Together, the risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome
are linked to a heightened risk of heart attack and stroke. Menopause may also
influence a woman's risk for metabolic syndrome, because hormone changes make
women susceptible to excessive weight gain, Yonsei University's Dr Hee-Taik
Kang and colleagues wrote in the journal Menopause.
For the new study, the researchers used data from 2007
through 2009 on 3 141 premenopausal Korean women and 2 115 postmenopausal women
to investigate the potential link between employment status and metabolic syndrome.
Among postmenopausal women, whose average age was between 59 and 65 years old,
about 55% of unemployed women met the criteria for having metabolic syndrome. That
compared to about 42% of employed women.
There was a similar trend among premenopausal women, whose
average age was about 35 years old. About 15% of unemployed premenopausal women
met the criteria for metabolic syndrome, compared to about 13% of employed
That small difference, however, could have been due to
chance."Several mechanisms could explain the significant relationships
between employment status and (metabolic syndrome)," wrote the researchers.
One possible explanation, according to Kang and colleagues, is that employed
postmenopausal women in their study were more active than the unemployed women.
But Wellons, an assistant professor of endocrinology at
Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said it's hard to know exactly why employed
postmenopausal women are healthier and if the results would apply to women in
the US. "I've seen studies that show working women in America weigh less,
but again, you just don't know. Does work keep you busy, keep you from gaining
weight, and do healthy women get hired more?" Wellons said."It's an
interesting observation and I hope it's true because I'm working," she