Objectives: We studied self-reported health in women with and without children in relation to their work status (employed, student, job seeker, or homemaker), work hours, and the potential influence of having an employed partner.
Methods: The study group comprised of 6,515 women born in 1960-1979 who were interviewed in one of the Swedish Surveys of Living Conditions in 1994-2003. Self-rated health, fatigue, and symptoms of anxiety were analyzed.
Results: Having children increased the odds of poor self-rated health and fatigue in employed women, in female students and job seekers. The presence of a working partner marginally buffered the effects. In dual-earner couples, mothers reported anxiety symptoms less often than women without children. Few women were homemakers (5.8%), one in five due to illness. The odds of poor self-rated health and fatigue increased by increasing number of children in employed women, and in women working 40 hours or more. Poor self-rated health was associated with the number of children also in students. Wishes to reduce the work hours were clearly enhanced in mothers, suggesting time stress as a precursor of their impaired health. The associations between having children and health symptoms were not exclusively attributed to small children.
Conclusions: Having children may contribute to fatigue and poor self-rated health particularly in women working 40 hours or more per week. Student mothers and job seeking mothers were also at increased risk of poor self-rated health. The results should be an observandum for Swedish policy-makers. Also for countries developing their welfare system towards economical and gender equity attention should be paid to prerequisites that may facilitate a successful merge of work and family life.
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