Mothers who have two children and a full-time job have significantly elevated stress levels, new research shows. A team of researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Essex analyzed data from more than 6,000 individuals collected by The UK Household Longitudinal Study.

The researchers: Prof Tarani Chandola of the University of Manchester, and Dr Cara Booker, Prof Meena Kumari and Prof Michaela Benzeval of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex, assessed the 11 biomarkers associated with chronic stress among the study’s participants.

They found that the overall level of 11 biomarkers related to chronic stress, including stress-related hormones and blood pressure, was 40% higher if women were working full-time while bringing up two children than it was among women working full-time with no children. Women working full time and bringing up one child had 18% higher level.

They also found that women with two children who worked reduced hours through part-time work, job share and term-time flexible working arrangements had chronic stress levels 37% lower than those working in jobs where flexible work was not available. Those working flexitime or working from home, with no overall reduction in working hours, had no reduction in chronic stress.

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Symptoms of chronic stress can include irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, and insomnia, according to The American Institute of Stress

“Work-family conflict is associated with increased psychological strain, with higher levels of stress and lower levels of well-being,” the researchers say

The researchers adjusted the raw data to rule out other influences on their findings, such as the women’s age, ethnicity, education, occupation, and income, so that the influence of working hours and family conditions could be studied in isolation.

Men’s chronic stress markers were also lower if they worked reduced hours, and the effect was about the same as for women.

“Definitely, it is very stressful as doing multitasking at work and at home is very tiresome. The nagging guilt of leaving the kid at home also increases the stress level,” says Shilpa Goel who is a working mother herself.

Mohina Tandon, a working woman, and mother to two children, said: “To manage both the things is obviously difficult. Stress level increases naturally.”

She feels that the stress level remains the same irrespective of the number of children one has. Having one or two children doesn’t have much to do in the elevation of stress. But yes, no child or one child has a major impact. Similar age can make a difference in this scenario. Tandon believes that if the age gap between the two children is more, then the stress level can remain the same but children with similar ages can add to the stress level.

Sonakshi Goel is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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