American Sociological Association

Job Characteristics, Job Preferences, and Physical and Mental Health in Later Life

Existing research linking socioeconomic status with work focuses primarily on the precursors (educational attainment) and outcomes (income) of work, rather than asking how diverse facets of work influence health. Using four waves of data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, the authors evaluate whether multiple measures of respondent job characteristics, respondent preferences for those characteristics, and their interaction substantially improve the fit of sociological models of men’s and women’s physical and mental health at midlife and old age compared with traditional models using educational attainment, parental socioeconomic status, and income. The authors find that nonwage job characteristics predict men’s and women’s physical and mental health over the life course, although there is little evidence that the degree to which one’s job accords with one’s job preferences matters for health. These findings expand what is known about how work matters for health, demonstrating how the manner and condition under which one works has lasting impacts on well-being.


Jessica Halliday Hardie, Jonathan Daw, and S. Michael Gaddis