Work-life balance is partly to blame.

By Sarah Yang
Updated June 27, 2016
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It’s no surprise that U.S. parents are stressed—and now a new study confirms that parents generally are not as happy as their childless counterparts.

Researchers at Baylor University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Wake Forest University compared the “happiness gap” between parents and non-parents in 22 countries, including the United States, France, Australia, Russia, and New Zealand. After looking at the family support policies of these countries and accounting for gross domestic product, fertility rates, unexpected births, and larger families, researchers found that U.S. had the largest “happiness gap."

It turns out that poor work-life balance—a lack of paid sick time and vacation, flexible work hours, and paid maternal or parental leave—is largely to blame. “The United States, without any standard paid leave available to mothers or parents—or any standard vacation or sick leave to support raising a dependent child—falls strikingly behind all the other countries we examined in terms of providing for parents’ happiness and overall well-being,” Matthew Andersson, Ph.D., co-researcher and associated professor of sociology at Baylor University, said in a statement.

The report also disproved the notion that family support policies only benefit parents, as they actually increase the happiness levels of everyone.