Working mums striving to "have it all" now can add another perk to their list of benefits — health.
New research from University of Akron finds that mums who work full time are healthier at age 40 than those who stay at home or work part-time.
The study examined data from 2,540 women who became mothers between 1978 and 1995, revealing that the choices women make early in their professional careers can affect their health later in life.
Those who return full time to the workforce shortly after having children report better mental and physical health, such as greater mobility, more energy, less depression, etc. at age 40.
"Work is good for your health, both mentally and physically," says Assistant Sociology Professor at University of Akron, Adrianne Frech, who co-authored the study, 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."
Rather than fueling the "Mummy Wars" debate, which pits stay-at-home mums against working mums, Frech believes that a recently identified group — she calls this group "persistently unemployed" — deserves further attention, as they appear to be the least healthy at age 40. These women are in and out of the workforce, often not by choice, and experience the highs and lows of finding rewarding work only to lose it and start the cycle again.
According to Frech, working full time has myriad benefits, while part-time work offers lower pay, poor chances of promotion, less job security and fewer benefits. Mothers who stay at home may face financial dependence and greater social isolation. Persistent unemployment is a health risk for women, as stress from work instability can cause physical health problems.
"Women with interrupted employment face more job-related barriers than other women, or cumulative disadvantages over time," says Frech.