Working Moms Healthier Than Those Who Stay At Home

By Amir Khan on August 20, 2012 11:32 AM EDT

A Woman with a Cup of Coffee
Working moms may be getting more than just a paycheck -- they may be healthier too, according to new research presented at the 2012 American Sociological Association meeting (Photo: Reuters)

Working moms may be getting more than just a paycheck -- they may be healthier too, according to new research presented at the 2012 American Sociological Association meeting in Denver, Colo. Researchers found that at age 40, working moms are healthier than stay at home moms or moms who only work part time.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University analyzed data from more than 2,500 women who became mothers between 1978 and 1995. After accounting for post-pregnancy employment, race, prior health conditions and other factors, they found that working mothers are healthier than those who don't work.

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"Work is good for your health, both mentally and physically," Adrianne Frech, study author and researcher from Pennsylvania State University, said in a statement. "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."  

In addition, researchers found that women who are often between jobs or frequently unemployed had the worst health. They said it may have something to do with the highs and lows that come from constantly searching for a job, only to lose it and have to start over.

"Struggling to hold onto a job or being in constant job search mode wears on their health, especially mentally, but also physically," Frech said.

Full-time work typically comes with benefits, while part-time work does not, which would explain why full-time workers are healthier.

"Women with interrupted employment face more job-related barriers than other women, or cumulative disadvantages over time," Frech said. "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 also recommended getting an education and a building a work history before having your first 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" Frech said. "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."

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