Female managers reported more sleep disruption in countries with worse gender equality
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Women in managerial roles seem to sleep better if they live in a country with greater gender equality. The same isn’t true for male managers, who sleep better in countries with higher GDP.
Leah Ruppanner and her colleagues at the University of Melbourne used data from the 2012 European Social Survey to study the sleep of 18,116 people, aged 25 to 64, from 29 European countries. Although it is an annual survey that is circulated across Europe every year, 2012 was the most recent year the participants were asked about their sleep patterns.
The survey asked people whether they had experienced restless sleep in the past week, along with which country they live in and their occupation. Ruppanner and her team then combined these answers with data on each country’s gender gap, as quantified by the United Nations gender development index.
“The UN quantify how women are situated across a whole range of measures within a country, in terms of access to education, healthcare and even employment opportunities,” says Ruppanner.
The team found that, in general, both men and women in managerial roles report restless sleep more often than people in less senior positions, but that female managers living in countries with a higher gender development index reported better sleep than women with similar jobs living in less equal countries.
“The Nordic countries tended to do really well here, because they have a whole range of policies that work to empower women and close the gender gap,” says Ruppanner.
The same correlation wasn’t true for men in managerial roles, however. “Men’s sleep appears to be tied to economic productivity – male managers sleep better when there’s a higher GDP,” says Ruppanner. “But everyone, men and women, sleep better in more gender equal countries.”
The study only identifies a correlation between gender equality and sleep, rather than showing a causal link, and there may be many complex issues underpinning why female managers reported poorer sleep in countries with a wider gender gap. “Is there gender discrimination from colleagues that makes it harder to do their jobs well, or things that generate psychological baggage that follows them home?” says Sarah Burgard at the University of Michigan, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“I don’t believe we can build plausible stories about the correlations derived from the gender development index and a country’s GDP,” says Marco Hafner at RAND Europe in Cambridge, UK. “For instance, a country with higher gender equality, like Sweden or Denmark, may also have a very good social security system, which in turn could have a very positive effect on sleep.”
Journal reference: PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0247515
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