A study conducted in Mumbai has found that women in dual-earning families suffer greater stress and poorer health than homemakers.
In a paper presented at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences this week, Dr Saman Afroz, assistant professor, at Nirmala Niketan, a college of social work, analysed data culled from the lives of 150 women in double-earning and single-earning families in Mumbai. The study found the dual pressure of managing home and office often outweighs the benefits of earning.
Of the 75 women surveyed in each category, around 55% working women reported they suffered from major illnesses, compared to the 45% homemakers. Chronic ailments such as arthritis, migraine, asthma and diabetes were found to be more common among office-goers. Minor ailments also affected working women more than their sit-at-home counterparts.
The study, carried out across diverse income groups, also showed that women in the high income group (monthly family income above Rs 1 lakh) suffered more illnesses than women in the middle income group (between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 50,000) and low income group (less than Rs 50,000).
Ironically, working women are pressed for time and unable to seek enough medical care, despite earning extra income for their families. “The home-makers sought much more healthcare, even when they did not have access to ‘their own’ money. It shows how one needs time more than money, for healthcare,” said Afroz.
Time constraints affects exercise schedules too – only 35% of working women were found to be exercising, compared to 65% homemakers. Not many working women seem to be enjoying role enhancement – a sense of satisfaction derived from a role that compensates the stress caused by another, the study found.
Rupal Gupta, a mother of two who works as a freelance public relations professional, said during her decade-long career with a film production team, she suffered from malaria several times. “My children went to pre-school at that time. I used to wake up at 5.30am, and reach office at 10 after doing a hundred chores. I was constantly falling ill, but was depending on over-the-counter pills a bit too much. I started developing major diseases, which is when I decided to quit a full-time job,” she said.