Working mothers are more stressed

Women combining work and motherhood are 18% more stressed than women without children, rising to 40% more stressed if they have two children.

Researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Essex looked at biological data for 6,025 women taking part in Understanding Society. They were particularly looking at 'biomarkers' in blood samples which show 'allostatic load' - a measure of general stress on the body, which can give an indication of poor health. The more stress a person is under, the higher their allostatic load is.

They found that the stress biomarkers for women who were full-time working mothers were 18% higher for women bringing up one child, compared to women with no children. Women who worked full-time and had two children had stress biomarkers that were 40% higher than women without children.

The researchers then looked at whether flexible working and home working had an impact on stress levels. They found that neither had an effect on chronic stress levels. The only thing that did make a difference was reducing working hours. 

Michaela Benzeval, one of the researchers involved in the project and Director of Understanding Society, said " Flexible working practices are meant to enable employees to achieve a more satisfactory work-life balance, which should reduce work-family conflict. The use of such reduced-hours flexible work arrangements appeared to moderate some of the association of family and work stressors, But there was little evidence that flexplace or flextime working arrangements were associated with lower chronic stress responses."