Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health

School

School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences

Faculty

Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Assoc Prof Jacques Oosthuizen

Abstract

Aim: Hairdressing is a common worldwide occupation which, in Australia, comprises largely of a female workforce. Hairdressers are exposed to a range of potential health hazards in their work environment. There is a lack of current research into common health problems experienced by Australian hairdressers. This study aims to investigate health issues experienced by this occupational group, to identify potential health problems that may be associated with their work and to identify concerns for future research. Methods: A review of current literature examining the health of hairdressers was conducted to ascertain areas of health concern for hairdressers. This information was used to inform a survey to investigate the prevalence of common health problems for female, Western Australian hairdressers. The survey included a range of workplace related questions, as well as questions on common health problems sourced directly from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH). The survey was distributed to all hairdressing salons in Western Australia. The data obtained from the hairdresser group was compared to data obtained from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health data books. Additionally, some comparisons were also made to other published Australian data on women’s health. Results: Overall, working as a hairdresser impacts negatively on an individual’s health. In particular, this study found that younger hairdressers were most at risk of increased respiratory illness, musculoskeletal problems, skin conditions, bowel issues, and general poor health. Other specific areas of health concern for hairdressers include an increased use of fertility hormones and a possible increase in pelvic organ prolapse. While younger hairdressers reported a higher prevalence of common health problems than the general population cohort, mid age and older hairdressers were overall as healthy as the general population. This result may be attributable to the ‘healthy worker effect’, in which poorer health individuals, prompted by health concerns, retire from the occupation. Conclusions: Education concerning the existing risks in the workplace environment is recommended for all hairdressers. Encouragement and support for better personal health management would promote general health and well being across the industry. Younger workers are particularly identified as requiring support to manage their own health. Further health research is indicated for a range of concerns, but this research needs to be occupation specific.

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