Patterns: Exploring Women's Health and Double Duty
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR
For women, combining work and family may be a healthier choice than staying home, recent research in Britain suggests.
The researchers studied 1,171 women born in 1946, interviewing them in each decade from their 20's on to collect information about their health, work, marriage and children. They then had the women report their state of health at 54.
The study found that women who had taken on multiple roles as mothers, wives, and employees over those years were significantly healthier than those who had not.
"Our question," said Anne McMunn, the lead author of the findings, "was whether women were working and having families because of their good health or whether their health was relatively good because of multiple role occupation."
The answer, the study found, is that taking on extra roles was itself associated with good health, and that initial good health was not a predictor of taking on extra roles.
Dr. McMunn is a senior research fellow in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London.
According to background information in the paper, which appears in the June issue of The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, it has been well known for some time that women who both work and maintain families are healthier than those who do not.
But it had not been clear that that was not simply because healthier women were inclined to take on both work and other roles.
The authors acknowledged the difficulty of generalizing beyond the specific group of British women included in the study. Examining other populations may produce different findings.
Nevertheless, they concluded, "Our results suggest that good health is more likely to be the result, rather than the cause" of taking on work along with family and child-rearing obligations.
Alas, an article not designed to make working moms feel like shit.
UPDATE: Via Bitch Ph.D. I discovered this excellent Salon article "The Maternal is Political," which highlights the work of two MoveOn activists who have started a new mother's movement called Moms Rising.