New books


Working Life, Sustainable Health and Retirement for Women

A qualitative analysis from a longitudinal study

Katrina Hugosson

Institute of International Education 2003 197 s. ISBN: 91-7265-662-X
Bogomtale fra forlaget.

This study examines how women perceive life at retirement and seeks to identify factors that have influenced life outcome. The overall aim is to reconstruct life histories and to illustrate possible connections between childhood circumstances and individual life-patterns. The most important contribution of this study is the understanding, related to women in the Malmö Longitudinal Study, of the factors involved in the perception of retirement life. The present study has only included women from the Malmö study who responded to the 1984 and 1994 questionnaires, and who answered both the 1984 life-question and the 1994 question, in which women were asked to describe important events that had affected their lives during the last 15 years. Altogether, seventy-seven women are included. To illustrate childhood circumstances, already collected and stored data from the Malmö study have been used. Questions, answers and comments from the 1984 and 1994 questionnaires have been used to reconstruct life histories.

This study has been inspired by the grounded theory method in the search for hidden patterns of life, and uses hermeneutics for its understanding and interpretation of data. Through a qualitative life history approach, seventy-seven life histories have been constructed. Six deviating patterns of life have been found: The Ordinary Life with Its Ups and Downs; The Hard but Rich Life; Life Is Full of Possibilities; Life Is Full of Challenges; Life Is a Disappointment; and finally Being Deserted. Seven different analytic dimensions have been involved in the perception of life at group and individual level: retirement, network, work, health, leisure, care taking and economy. These seven analytical dimensions have also been used in the identification and understanding of the six deviating life patterns. In the analysis of the findings, the sense of coherence theory (Antonovsky, 1985), the resource conversion theory (Coleman, 1971) and social change (Coleman, 1990) have been used as pre-understandings and as filters. The individual life and its life outcome were found to be very much dependent on the interaction and use of socio-economic, environmental and personal resources.

The present study shows that women have related education and work to their possibilities in maintaining their roles as mothers and wives. Education and work have been important aspects in life and are often related to the possibilities of networking and being socially involved. What has also been found is that deprived social contacts do not always affect life in a negative way—if women find other ways of making life meaningful. Findings and understandings in this study should have implications for public policymakers and social planners regarding community and health care planning, as well as for welfare interventions, educational planning and socio-economic priorities. Different choices and deviating ways should be made available for individuals to use as supportive societal resources to help as many as possible to attain quality of life and well-being.

Descriptors: Quality of life, health and well-being, education, women, work, life at retirement, life history, biography, sense of coherence, resource conversion, social change, the Malmö Longitudinal