Moms with multiple jobs have higher depression risk

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New research finds a link between working multiple jobs and a 3-4 percentage points increase in the probability of depression among a sample of low-income working moms.

The association is strongest for those mothers who work more than one job and have a nonstandard work schedule, work at least 45 hours per week, or have low earnings, the researchers say.

“Understanding how these work arrangements are associated with mental health among mothers is especially important if we want to improve the well-being of both mothers and their children,” says lead author Angela Bruns, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, who adds that maternal depression has been linked with poorer outcomes for kids.

Recent research has found that about 16 percent of mothers with young children held multiple jobs in the previous year and more than 16 million people in the US reported a major depressive disorder in the past year.

To examine the relationship between working multiple jobs and poor mental health outcomes, Bruns and Natasha Pilkauskas, an assistant professor at the Ford School of Public Policy, examined data on nearly 3,000 women from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study.

The study enrolled mostly low-income mothers from 20 urban areas and surveyed them about past-year experiences, including job characteristics and depressive symptoms.

“There are two main reasons for holding multiple jobs,” says Pilkauskas. “The first is ‘moonlighting’ to change careers. The second and more common reason is due to economic strain, such as difficulty making ends meet or paying off debt.”

In the study, researchers asked mothers if they experienced a major depressive episode. Those who reported feeling depressed or an inability to enjoy things that were usually pleasurable then answered a series of follow-up questions about more specific symptoms they experienced.

“It’s important to note that it is not just about income. Multiple job holding may impact depression through other avenues like work-life stress or arranging child care,” Bruns says.

The study points out that it is necessary to establish policies that create alternatives to multiple job holding and still provide enough resources so that families can make ends meet.

“More research is needed to understand whether and how other policies, such as those regarding the minimum wage, worker protections from volatile schedules, child care assistance, or public assistance, might be influencing multiple job holding and, in turn, mental health,” Pilkauskas says.

The study appears in Women’s Health Issues.

Source: University of Michigan