'Double burden' of unpaid and paid work creates 'undeniable mental burden' on women, researchers say

‘Double burden’ of unpaid and paid work creates ‘undeniable mental burden’ on women, researchers say

Women’s mental health is suffering because of the ‘double burden’ of employment and unpaid work at home, a new study has found.

Doing the lion’s share of housework and caregiving weighs heavily on women’s mental well-being, while the effects of unpaid work on mental health are less apparent among men.

Today, researchers are asking for ways to ensure a fair division of labor, to improve the mental health of employed women.

Lead researcher Jen Ervin said: “We found substantial gender differences in exposure to unpaid work, with women consistently doing more across all geographic and temporal contexts – across more than 35 countries – worldwide.

“This double burden of paid and unpaid work puts women at greater risk of overwork, lack of time and mental health. Crucially, women also regularly trade paid work hours to fulfill their work responsibilities disproportionately high unpaid.

In the first research of its kind, the University of Melbourne team carried out a review of 14 studies involving 66,800 people worldwide that examined the gendered association between unpaid work and mental well-being.

In 11 of the 14 studies, women reported feeling depressed or experiencing symptoms of psychological distress as the demands of unpaid work on them increased. Only three studies have found a similar link in men.

Ms Ervin said: “There is an undeniable mental burden that comes with unpaid work and caring responsibilities. Reducing the disproportionate burden of unpaid work on women, by allowing men to do their equal share, has the potential improve women’s mental health.”
The team called for policy changes, including universal childcare and flexible working for men.

The study was published in The Lancet Public Health.

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