Professional women 'stress out' their partners at home

Occupational Psychology: Long hours and stoicism are important for job satisfaction
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The Independent Online

When professional couples bring their work home, it is the men who suffer. Working women who offload the worries of the day on their partner make them anxious and depressed, according to a study.

When professional couples bring their work home, it is the men who suffer. Working women who offload the worries of the day on their partner make them anxious and depressed, according to a study.

Research presented at the British Psychological Society's annual occupational psychology conference in Brighton yesterday shows that working couples who have equally stressful and demanding jobs are at risk of damaging each other's health.

Men whose partners work in managerial or professional jobs are twice as likely to become depressed or anxious as their partner. But women remain almost unaffected by their partner's work demands. The findings overturn previous research, which showed that men's work stresses give their partners poorer mental health. In the past 30 years, the number of working couples has risen drastically and family life has changed substantially as women now make up half the workforce.

Sophie Crossfield, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire, and a co-author of the study, said that men could be more vulnerable to their partners' job stresses because they tended to have less emotional support networks than women. "Women do not rely as exclusively on their partner as men do. For many men their partner is their sole source of support," she said.

Ms Crossfield said that women who made it professionally were also likely to be tougher and more self-reliant than their partners and were less likely to demonstrate stereotypical supportive and nurturing behaviours towards their spouses. "Couples need to learn a healthier and better way of offloading their daily anxieties by being less negative and understanding the effect it could be having on their partner," she said.

The study, the first to examine couples with equal working status, showed that 75 per cent of women and 85 per cent of men said that they discussed their work every day or almost every day. Over half said that they concentrated on bringing up negative issues at work.

Of the 40 couples interviewed, the majority worked in the financial or IT sectors and the average age was 34.

The women reported feeling far more ill at ease when reprimanding subordinates and generally rated their jobs as demanding, whereas the more committed a man was to his job the more his general mood was affected by what happened at work.

The study showed that men whose partners complained most frequently about work suffered higher levels of depression than those who were less inclined to offload their worries at home.

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