A team of researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Essex analysed data from more than 6,000 individuals collated by The UK Household Longitudinal Study.
The nationwide study, published in the British Sociological Association journal Sociology, gathers various information from households across the country including the working life of the inhabitants, their hormone levels, blood pressure and experiences with stress.
The researchers assessed the 11 biomarkers associated with chronic stress among the participants of the study.
According to their findings, the overall levels of biomarkers associated with chronic stress are 40 per cent higher among women who have two children and are working full-time jobs, in comparison to women who have no children and are also working full-time.
The overall levels of biomarkers associated with chronic stress are 18 per cent higher among mothers with one child and full-time jobs.
When an individual has experienced stress for an extended period of time, it may be defined as “chronic stress” or “long-term stress”, the Mental Health Foundation states.
Symptoms of chronic stress can include irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches and insomnia, according to The American Institute of Stress.
The researchers also discovered women with two children who were working reduced hours had chronic stress levels 37 per cent lower than mothers working jobs with inflexible hours.
Chronic stress levels among working fathers were also found to be lower when working reduced hours.
When conducting the study, the researchers adjusted the raw data to rule out the prospect of other lifestyle factors affecting their findings. These factors included such things as the women’s ages, their income, their ethnicity or education.
“Work-family conflict is associated with increased psychological strain, with higher levels of stress and lower levels of wellbeing,” the researchers said.
“Parents of young children are at particular risk of work-family conflict. Working conditions that are not flexible to these family demands, such as long working hours, could adversely impact on a person’s stress reactions.
“Repeated stressful events arising from combinations of social and environmental stressors and major traumatic life events result in chronic stress, which in turn affects health.”
The researchers said flexible hours could be beneficial to ensure workers were able to achieve a satisfactory work-life balance.
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