Despite what working women may feel on a bad day, the very act of having to juggle career, motherhood and being a partner may actually be keeping them healthy.
British scientists have found that the complex roles many women have to play is good for their long term health and being a working mother along with being a wife or partner may help to keep women healthy.
The researchers from University College London examined data on women taking part in the Medical Research Council's National Study of Health and Development, which tracked the health of Britons born in 1946.
They found that women who had multiple roles were less likely than homemakers, single mothers or childless females to report poor health or to be obese in middle age.
Dr. Anne McMunn, the lead researcher of UCL's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, says that women who occupied multiple roles over the long term reported relatively good health at age 54, and it appears that such women are relatively healthy as a result of combining work and family life.
McMunn and her team analyzed self-reported health records for the study of more than 2,000 women at the ages of 26 and 54 and their body mass index, which is a method of measuring obesity.
Included in the information were details of marital status, work history and whether they had children.
The researchers found that women who had been homemakers most of their lives were most likely to report poor health, followed by single mothers and childless women.
It seems homemakers tended to gain weight more quickly and had the highest rate of obesity at 38 percent while women who were employees, wives and mothers had the lowest.
McMunn said it has been known for some time that women who combine employment with motherhood and partnership have better health, but it was unclear whether they were working and having children because they were healthy, or whether they were healthy because they were combining the two.
She says this study is the first to show which way that direction runs, and demonstrates that there may be potential long-term health benefits of being able to participate in all areas of society.
The researchers say mothers should be helped if they want to work as the findings show the short-term stress of juggling roles is outweighed by long-term benefits.
Dr. McMunn does say that the study did look at a specific generation of women, but she believes that its lessons remain valid.
The study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.