Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Social Roles and Women's Health

When my children were younger and I was working full-time all while juggling classes and volunteerism, I often had people tell me they just didn't know how I did it all. And, while "doing it all" was certainly challenging, according to a new study published in England, it may also result in better health. Researchers found that women who occupied multiple social roles over the long term generally reported better health and were less likely to be obese than mothers who were full-time homemakers.

Researchers from University College London found that of the 53- and 54-year-old women in their study, mothers who were married and working were significantly more likely to report better health than homemakers, single mothers, or women with no children. The researchers tracked the health of more than 2,000 women from age 26 to 54 and found that prior health, mental health, and childhood social class did not seem to make a difference in the increased likelihood of being obese at all.

Most important, where prior research couldn't determine whether work made women healthier or healthier women were able to work, the researchers suggest "good health is more likely to be the result, rather than the cause, of multiple role occupation" What they want to better understand now is "what it is about particular work and family roles that influences people's health" (McMunn et al., 2006, p. 488).

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