Mothers who work full time are said to have better mental and physical health than stay-at-home moms or moms who work part time, that’s according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Akron and Penn State University found that women who go back to work soon after having children have more energy and mobility and are equally less depressed at the age of 40.
“Work is good for your health, both mentally and physically. 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,” study author Adrianne Frech, an assistant sociology professor, said in an American Sociological Association news release.
“If women can make good choices before their first pregnancy, they likely will be better off health-wise later. 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,” Frech explained.
Benefits of working full-time
Working full-time can benefit mothers in more ways than one, researchers suggest. There is the added benefit of making more money, having more opportunities for promotion, job security and more employment benefits than for those who work part-time. Stay-at-home moms are usually financially dependent and are at a higher risk of social isolation than working mothers.
The study observed data on over 2500 women who became mothers between 1978 and 1995.
Women who reported the most health issues were women who were constantly unemployed – those who drop in and out of the workforce – often not by their own choice – reported the most health issues.
“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.”
What the researchers advise
Authors of the study advised women to finish their education and to work for a while before having a baby.
“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. “Work makes you healthier. You will have the opportunity to save a nest egg. Also, should a divorce happen, it is harder to enter the workforce if you don’t have a solid work history. Don’t give up on work and education.”
Researchers also added that childcare and transportation assistance for single mothers could help improve their employment options.
The study considered a number of factors which could influence health such as pregnancy employment, marital status, race/ethnicity, prior health conditions and the woman’s age when she had her first child.