Background: As women's labor force participation in the United States has increased over the past decades, there has been an interest in the potential health effects of employment. To date, however, research findings have been contradictory. Methods: Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate the association between employment status and mortality among 7361 middle-aged African American and white women who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Women were classified as employed or homemakers at the baseline examination (1987-1989) and were followed for approximately 11 years. Proportional hazards regression was used to estimate unadjusted and adjusted hazard ratios. Results: After adjusting for sociodemographic factors and selected risk factors for mortality, employed women had a lower risk of mortality than homemakers (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.65, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.49, 0.86). This decreased risk of mortality persisted in additional analyses that excluded those who died within the first 2 years of follow-up or, alternatively, those with a history of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, or a perception of fair or poor health at baseline. In cause of death-specific analyses, the mortality advantage among employed women persisted for circulatory system-related deaths; however, the association for cancer-related deaths was weaker, and the CI included one. Conclusions: As the association between employment status and mortality was not explained by known risk factors for mortality, additional research is needed to identify, other potential factors that may help to explain this relationship.
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