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Study Shows Working Mothers Are Happier and Healthier

Working mother's desk

August 21, 2012

Women often consider the impact full-time work versus stay-at-home motherhood will have on their children or their budget, but a new study suggests there is one more factor worth considering: Maternal health and well-being.

Researchers from the University of Akron and Penn State University found that women who go back to work soon after having children are healthier, happier and more energetic at age 40. According to HealthDay, women who work full-time fare better than those who work part-time or stay home.

"Work is good for your health, both mentally and physically," study author Adrianne Frech, an assistant sociology professor, said in an American Sociological Association news release, as reported by HealthDay. "It gives women a sense of purpose, self-efficacy, control and autonomy. They have a place where they are an expert on something, and they're paid a wage."

According to ScienceDaily, Frech and co-author Sarah Damaske studied data from 2,540 women who entered motherhood between 1978 and 1995. Among the factors considered: pre-pregnancy employment, race, cognitive ability, prior health conditions, marital status and the age at which they had their first child. The results: Those who did not put education or career aside for long, if at all, benefited physically and mentally from those choices.

"If women can make good choices before their first pregnancy, they likely will be better off health-wise later," said Frech in HealthDay. "Examples of good choices could be delaying your first birth until you're married and done with your education, or not waiting a long time before returning to the workforce."

While it is too early to pin down what, precisely, is driving better health among working moms, HealthDay notes that full-time moms tend to make more money, have improved job security and often enjoy health insurance benefits. Stay-at-home moms, on the other hand, may be more financially dependent and prone to social isolation. Stay-at-home mothers, however, still fared better in the study than women who were "persistently unemployed," meaning those who dropped out of the workforce frequently, often as the result of layoffs or firings.

"Struggling to hold onto a job or being in constant job-search mode wears on their health, especially mentally, but also physically," said Frech. "Women with interrupted employment face more job-related barriers than other women, or cumulative disadvantages over time."

According to Today Online, Frech and Damaske advise women to get an education and build up a work history before having children, choices that may limit future job loss and make it easier to re-enter the workforce following the birth of a child.

"Don't let critical life transitions like marriage and parenthood mean that you invest any less in your education and work aspirations, because women are the ones who end up making more trade-offs for family," said Frech in Today Online.


Compiled by Aimee Hosler

Sources:

"Work Has More Benefits Than Just a Paycheck for Moms: Working Moms Are Healthier Than Stay-At-Home Moms," sciencedaily.com, August 19, 2012

"Working Moms Report Better Health Than Those Who Stay Home," healthday.com, August 20, 2012

"Working mums healthier than stay-at-home mothers, study says," todayonline.com, August 20, 2012

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