Objective: to assess demographic and lifestyles characteristics, working conditions and work ability among public workers looking at gender as a mediator factor.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out at a public health institution. A questionnaire including individual, lifestyles, work characteristics, and the work ability index (Tuomi et al, 1998; 2005) were answered by the studied population.
Results: Six hundred fifty one participants agreed to answer the questionnaire and were included in the study. This totalized 89.4% of the total population working in the institution. Females were 63.7% of all participants and the mean age was 43.1 for them and 49.0 for men.
Descriptive analysis showed that women were younger than men (p<0.0077), had more years of education, had predominantly mixed (physical and mental) work demands, work at institution for shorter time and spent longer weekly time in household activities compared to their males colleagues (p<0.0001). More men than women were overweight and obese. Work ability index items showed differences in relation to mental work demands, work impairment, and mental resources (p<0.05): women were worse than men. A multiple logistic regression was carried out to identify variables associated to females. They were: the lower time of work at institution, to have a single job and to do household activities.
Conclusion The results corroborate to the results of other Brazilian studies about gender and work ability: compared to men, women had their work ability decreased before, in relation to age.