Objectives: The authors 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 having an employed partner.
Methods: The study group comprised of 6515 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 analysed.
Results: Having children increased the odds of poor self-rated health and fatigue in employed women, 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%). The odds of poor self-rated health and fatigue increased with increasing number of children in employed women, and in women working 40 h or more. Poor self-rated health was also associated with the number of children in students. Many mothers wished to reduce their working hours, suggesting time stress was a factor in their impaired health. The associations between having children and health symptoms were not exclusively attributed to having young children.
Conclusions: Having children may contribute to fatigue and poor self-rated health particularly in women working 40 h or more per week. Student mothers and job seeking mothers were also at increased risk of poor self-rated health. The results should be noted by Swedish policy-makers. Also countries aiming for economic and gender equality should consider factors that may facilitate successful merging of work and family life.
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Funding Contract grant sponsor: Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, grant no. 2004–1101.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was approved by the research ethics committee at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm (http://www.epn.se/start/startpage.aspx).
Approval to use the registry data was obtained by Statistics Sweden, working in compliance with the principles of the Helsinki Declaration. We had no access to personal identifiers.
Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.