BACKGROUND: In the Netherlands, the fact that midlife women constitute a considerable segment of the working population is relatively new. Generally paid work contributes to midlife women's wellbeing, but they also report health challenges, such as work-related fatigue and the menopause. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to understand how midlife women themselves perceive their health, wellbeing, and functioning in relation to paid work. METHODS: In this exploratory qualitative study, 28 women participated in five ethnically homogeneous focus group discussions (FGDs). De FGDs were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and thematically analyzed using MAXQDA. RESULTS: We identified exhaustion as central to our analysis. During midlife, exhaustion seems to occur once a certain limit has been reached, both physically and mentally, with women feeling to have reached the end of their rope. Besides obvious physiological challenges, we identified two major themes in which we discuss challenges both in paid work and private life: (1) work environment and working conditions, and (2) burdens in private life. Participants took various measures to manage and try to reduce exhaustion, including finding a new job or negotiating different job tasks, and reducing work hours. CONCLUSION: This study indicates that the extent to which women experience exhaustion is associated with challenges in both paid work and private life. The underlying processes do not seem to reflect individual problems, but reflect a complex set of factors at the structural level. Nevertheless, women take several individual measures to reduce their exhaustion, including reducing their participation in paid work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-809
Number of pages11
JournalWork (Reading, Mass.)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2024


  • Women
  • menopause
  • mental health
  • middle aged
  • qualitative research
  • work

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