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Women's health

Working mothers are most affected by stress

May 13, 2019

Maternity and work can be reconciled, but the consequences in terms of stress are mainly borne by women. Working mothers are the most stressed of all. If the offspring is composed of a single child, stress is on average 18% more, but it rises to 40% if there are two children to manage.

The researchers of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University prepared a survey that came out of unique and significant results for the number of data examined but above all because the study, which analyzed 11 key indicators of chronic stress levels, takes into account biological parameters such as blood pressure and hormonal levels and not only data “reported”. We talked about it with Dr. Katia Rastelli, psychologist at Humanitas.


Is the only solution really to work less?

It was Professor Tarani Chandola of Manchester University and a team from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University who conducted the largest survey of its kind ever. Researchers collected and analyzed biological data from nurses from 6,025 participants in the Household Longitudinal Survey. According to their research, which has just been published in the British Sociological Association Journal Sociology, neither home work nor flexible work has a beneficial effect on the chronic stress levels of working mothers.

Researchers found that biomarkers indicating chronic stress were 40% higher for women who worked full time while raising two young children, compared to women who worked full time without children. The conflict between work and family in the long run results in chronic stress and severely affects health. Only the reduction in the number of hours has been shown to have a positive impact on reducing the stress of working mothers. But is this really the only solution for working mothers?


The opinion of Humanitas

“There is certainly a correlation, both for working mothers, between increased stress (also indicated by biological indicators) and the number of working hours, but reporting less work as the main solution, seems to me rather reductive for the overall reading of the phenomenon. First of all, the perception of stress is partly subjective, so it is not said that in the general survey of the state of female malaise”.

Rastelli continued, “A balance must be made by taking into account numerous factors, including stability at work, help at home, support for parenthood, state aid such as nurseries, maternal care, and partner support. But also considering whether a woman does a job she likes or doesn’t like and finally working hours”.

“From a biopsychosocial point of view – the specialist said – a woman who does not work, with a single child, who had to leave her job that she liked because she did not have a support network for her growth and who has to manage all the family burden on her own, can be much more stressed than a working mother, with good family support who has the opportunity to do a job that she likes and that allows her to carve out personal spaces outside the family. In short, more than on the drastic reduction of working hours, I would focus on strengthening the various forms of support, fundamental to reconcile family and working life, with a view to freedom of choice, more respectful of the condition of women.

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