Is paid inflexible work better than unpaid housework for women’s mental health? The moderating role of parenthood

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

July 28, 2022


Despite women’s increased participation in the labor market over the last several decades, many women still perform a disproportionate share of housework, and lack the support of flexible working arrangements. Thus, women are facing a trade-off between doing paid inflexible work and doing unpaid housework, both of which have negative impacts on their mental health. However, the effects of work flexibility and unpaid housework are rarely examined together. This study aims to compare the effects of paid inflexible work and unpaid housework on women’s mental health. It also examines whether parenthood affects the mental health impacts of different employment and economic statuses on women. This study applies nationally representative longitudinal data from the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study (2010–2020, N = 23,552), and uses two-way fixed effects models to process this data. The results show that women who have paid inflexible work have significantly better mental health than those who do only unpaid housework. This pattern is consistent for women who lack different types of flexible work arrangements. Moreover, the mental health benefits of inflexible working over unpaid housework are particularly pronounced for women without dependent children. Paid work, even paid inflexible work, matters for women’s mental health, especially women without children. Future research needs to incorporate various employment and economic statuses into one theoretical framework to examine women’s mental health and further investigate the role of parenthood in moderating the health effects of employment and economic status.

Published in

Applied Research in Quality of Life






Online Early

Open Access

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