Discussion paper

Scand J Work Environ Health Online-first -article    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.3980

Working life, health and well-being of parents: a joint effort to uncover hidden treasures in European birth cohorts

by Ubalde-Lopez M, Garani-Papadatos T, Scelo G, Casas M, Lissåker C, Peters S, Nohr EA, Albin M, Lucas R, Papantoniou K, Polańska K, Ramlau-Hansen CH, Šarac J, Selander J, Skröder H, Vasileiou E, Kogevinas M, Bültmann U, Mehlum IS, Maule M

Objective Birth cohorts collect valuable and under-utilized information on employment and health of parents before and during pregnancy, at birth, and sometimes after birth. In this discussion paper, we examine how these data could be exploited to study the complex relationships and interactions between parenthood, work, and health among parents themselves.

Methods Using a web-based database of birth cohorts, we summarize information on maternal employment and health conditions and other potentially related variables in cohorts spread throughout Europe. This provided information on what data are available and could be used in future studies, and what was missing if specific questions are to be addressed, exploiting the opportunity to explore work–health associations across heterogenous geographical and social contexts.

Results We highlight the many potentialities provided by birth cohorts and identify gaps that need to be addressed to adopt a life-course approach and investigate topics specific to the peri-pregnancy period, such as psychosocial aspects. We address the technical difficulties implied by data harmonization and the ethical challenges related to the repurposing of data, and provide scientific, ecological and economic arguments in favor of improving the value of data already available as a result of a serious investment in human and material resources.

Conclusions There is a hidden treasure in birth cohorts that deserves to be brought out to study the relationships between employment and health among working parents in a time when the boundaries between work and life are being stretched more than ever before.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2014;40(6):639-648  2015;41(4):384-396  2016;42(4):346-353  2020;46(3):231-234
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