MPIDR Working Paper

Work-family typologies and mental health among women in early working ages

van Hedel, K., Moustgaard, H., Myrskylä, M., Martikainen, P.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2021-015, 38 pages.
Rostock, Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (September 2021)


Better mental health is observed among women with a partner, children, or employment as compared with women without a partner, children, or employment, respectively. Moreover, women who fulfill all three roles are generally healthier than those with fewer roles. Because of significant changes in work-family life constellations over age, understanding these health differentials requires a life course approach. We linked work-family trajectories to mental health in mid-life for Finnish women using longitudinal registry data. Panel data from an 11% random sample of the population residing in Finland in any year between 1987 and 2007 and followed up until 2013 were used. Work-family combinations were based on partnership status, motherhood status, and employment status. Purchases of prescribed psychotropic medication were used as a measure of mental health. We used sequence analysis to identify 7 distinct groups of women based on their work-family trajectories between ages 20 to 42 years. The associations of typologies of trajectories with mental health at age 43 years were estimated with logistic regression models. Compared to employed mothers with a partner, all other women were more likely to have purchased any psychotropic medication at age 43; especially women without a partner, children or employment and lone mothers had worse mental health. These disadvantages remained after controlling for psychotropic medication purchases earlier in life (to account for potential health selection). Adjusting for age at motherhood did not contribute to the better mental health of employed mothers with a partner. Women combining partnership, motherhood, and employment during early working ages had better mental health later in life than women with other work-family trajectories even after adjusting for mental health earlier in life. Interventions to improve the mental health of women living alone in mid-life, including lone mothers, and individuals without employment, may be needed.

Keywords: Work-family life; Mental health; Finland; Life course approach; Sequence analysis; Psychotropic medication use

Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.