Work-related fatigue: the specific case of highly educated women in the Netherlands

Petra Verdonk*, Wendela E. Hooftman, Marc J. P. M. van Veldhoven, Louise R. M. Boelens, Lando L. J. Koppes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study aims to establish the prevalence of high work-related fatigue (need for recovery, NFR) among employees and to explain group differences categorized by gender, age, and education. The study particularly aims to clarify prevalence and explanatory factors in highly educated women. In 2005 and 2006, large representative samples of 80,000 Dutch employees (net response rate 33.0%; N = 47,263) received the Netherlands working conditions survey questionnaire. First, we calculated the prevalence of high NFR for men and women with different age and education levels. The average prevalence of high NFR was 28.8% and was highest among highly educated women (35.2%) in particular those aged 50-64 years (40.3%). Second, logistic regression analyses were used to compare subgroups' NFR in relation to situational factors, working conditions, and health. Three comparisons were made: (1) highly educated women versus men; (2) highly educated versus lower educated women and; (3) older highly educated versus younger highly educated women. The situational, working conditions and health factors in our model did not explain the gender differences among highly educated employees (OR = 1.37; CI = 1.3-1.5, adjusted for all factors OR = 1.32; CI = 1.2-1.5). Despite that lower autonomy and workplace violence explained highly educated women's NFR, working fewer hours counterbalanced this. Time pressure in work largely explained the differences in NFR among women at different education levels (crude OR 1.44; CI = 1.4-1.5, adjusted OR 1.14; CI = 1.0-1.3). In the age comparison, lower health ratings, more adverse working conditions, and working as a teacher explained older highly educated women's high prevalence of high NFR (crude OR 1.32; CI = 1.2-1.5, adjusted OR 0.94; CI = 0.8-1.2). NFR has high prevalence in highly educated women (35.2%) in particular those aged 50-64 years (40.3%). Our model did not explain gender differences in NFR, because working fewer hours counterbalanced the effects of lower autonomy and external workplace violence. Our model, in particular time pressure, largely explained differences in NFR between women at different education levels. Age differences in the prevalence of high NFR among highly educated women's were fully explained by our model. Main factors were lower health ratings, adverse working conditions, and working as a teacher.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-321
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • Need for recovery
  • Work-related fatigue
  • Gender
  • Highly educated women
  • Working conditions

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