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Work status, work hours and health in women with and without children
  1. B Floderus1,
  2. M Hagman1,
  3. G Aronsson2,
  4. S Marklund3,
  5. A Wikman4
  1. 1
    Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  2. 2
    Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3
    Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Section of Personal Injury Prevention, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  4. 4
    Department of Social Science, Mälardalen University, Västerås, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Birgitta Floderus, Karolinska Institutet, NASP, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden; birgitta.floderus{at}


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 (

  • 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.