Exploring Women’s Health and Double Duty
by Nicholas Bakalar --NYT, May 23, 2006 For women, combining work and family may be a healthier choice than staying home, recent research in Britain suggests.
The study found that women who had taken on multiple roles as mothers, wives, and employees over those years were significantly healthier than those who had not.
“Our question,” said Anne McMunn, the lead author of the findings, “was whether women were working and having families because of their good health or whether their health was relatively good because of multiple role occupation.”
The answer, the study found, is that taking on extra roles was itself associated with good health, and that initial good health was not a predictor of taking on extra roles.
Dr. McMunn is a senior research fellow in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London.According to background information in the paper, which appears in the June issue of the Journal Epidemiology and Community Health, it has been well known for some time that women who both work and maintain families are healthier than those who do not. But it had not been clear that that was not simply because healthier women were inclined to take on both work and other roles.The authors acknowledged the difficulty of generalizing beyond the specific group of British women included in the study. Examining other populations may produce different findings.Nevertheless, they concluded, “Our results suggest that good health is more likely to be the result, rather than the cause” of taking on work along with family and child-rearing obligations.