Working mothers may have had more than a sneaking suspicion that it was the case, but now they have the data to back it up: they experience more stress than other people – 18% more, in fact. And that figure rises to 40% for those with two children, according to a major study that analysed 11 key indicators of chronic stress levels.

According to their research published in the journal Sociology, neither working from home nor flexi-time had an effect on women’s chronic stress levels. But reducing the number of hours they worked did have a positive impact.

“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.”

Overall, the 11 indicators, known as “biomarkers”, produce something called an “allostatic load”, a measure of the cumulative wear and tear on the body’s physiological systems, which can indicate poor health and a greater risk of death.

The researchers found that the biomarkers indicating chronic stress, including hormone levels and blood pressure, were 40% higher for women working full time while bringing up two children than among women working full time with no children. Women who were working full time and bringing up one child had 18% higher levels of stress than women with no children.

The researchers also discovered that fathers’ markers could be lowered if they worked reduced hours.

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