Overworked Couples Have Worst Life Quality

January 22, 1999

Working Couples Burdened By Time At Work Say Their Lives Are Beset By Stress, Conflict And Overload, Cornell Sociologist Reports

ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- Marriage partners who feel burdened by their hours at work report the lowest quality of life among working couples, according to a new Cornell University study.

These couples tend to experience more conflict between work and personal life, more stress, and more feelings of overload as well as lack of control and mastery of their lives than other working couples. And those partners with very demanding jobs are, by far, at the highest risk for low life quality, according to Cornell sociologist Phyllis Moen. "The fact is that in contemporary working-couple households, at least one spouse typically puts in long hours (more than 45 hours a week)," said Moen.

Presenting her findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting today (Jan. 22), Moen said: "Married working couples who are launching young families are the ones who tend to work the longest hours and, therefore, report the lowest quality of life among working couples." This suggests, she said, that it's not only parenting but also job responsibilities and expectations "that make these years of career building especially trying."

On the other hand, marriage partners who both work full-time (but not longer) report the highest quality of life. Part-time work by one or both spouses is not linked to higher life quality, possibly because of the nature of part-time work that is available, she said.

Moen is director of the Cornell Employment and Family Careers Institute, which is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. She spoke during a panel session called "The Time Squeeze: Work/Family Strategies in the Next Century," which she organized. She also is the Ferris Family Professor of Life Course Studies at Cornell.

Moen worked with Yan Yu, assistant professor of anthropology/sociology at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich., to analyze data on 1,679 working couples at eight life stages from the 1992 National Study of the Changing Workforce. She sought to evaluate the work arrangements of working couples to determine which partners reaped the highest quality of life.

"What matters most for life quality, we've found, is not only work hours, but also having a supportive supervisor," Moen said.

Surprisingly, marriages in which the husband is a professional and the working wife is not, also rated high in the life-quality area, Moen said.

"This should not be surprising, given that the workplace as well as society is geared for the traditional breadwinner model, that is, having only one spouse -- typically the husband -- heavily invested in their jobs. This outdated structure pigeonholes workers as if they were without family responsibilities or other non-work personal involvements," she added.

Among Moen's other findings:


-- Working couples with children at home are most likely to have one spouse -- typically the husband -- working more than 45 hours a week, while the other spouse works full time.

-- Marriages in which both partners are professionals or managers report the highest conflict between work and personal life, stress and overload, especially the female partner.

-- Men working in professional positions or as managers report more stress, conflict and burnout than non-professional men.

-- Both men and women who are launching and establishing their careers, whether they have children or not, report high levels of stress, overload and conflict between work and personal life.

The study was supported, in part, by the Sloan foundation and the National Institute on Aging.
-end-
The Cornell researcher mentioned in this release can be contacted through the Cornell News Service until January 19. During the AAAS meeting, the researcher can be reached through David Brand, Cornell Senior Science Editor, at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel, 714-750-4321, Fax 714-740-4460, or in the AAAS Newsroom, Anaheim Hilton, Fourth Floor.

Related World Wide Web sites: The following sites provide additional information on this news release. Some might not be part of the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over their content or availability.

Phyllis Moen's home pagehttp://www.human.cornel l.edu/hd/faculty/moen.html

Cornell University College of Human Ecology:http://www.human.cornell.edu/hd/

Cornell Employment and Family Careers Institute: http://www.human.cornell.e du/blcc/cci/cci.html

The Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center: http://www.human.cornell.edu/blcc/



Cornell University

Related Stress Articles from Brightsurf:

Stress-free gel
Researchers at The University of Tokyo studied a new mechanism of gelation using colloidal particles.

Early life stress is associated with youth-onset depression for some types of stress but not others
Examining the association between eight different types of early life stress (ELS) and youth-onset depression, a study in JAACAP, published by Elsevier, reports that individuals exposed to ELS were more likely to develop a major depressive disorder (MDD) in childhood or adolescence than individuals who had not been exposed to ELS.

Red light for stress
Researchers from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo have created a biphasic luminescent material that changes color when exposed to mechanical stress.

How do our cells respond to stress?
Molecular biologists reverse-engineer a complex cellular structure that is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS

How stress remodels the brain
Stress restructures the brain by halting the production of crucial ion channel proteins, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

How plants handle stress
Plants get stressed too. Drought or too much salt disrupt their physiology.

Stress in the powerhouse of the cell
University of Freiburg researchers discover a new principle -- how cells protect themselves from mitochondrial defects.

Measuring stress around cells
Tissues and organs in the human body are shaped through forces generated by cells, that push and pull, to ''sculpt'' biological structures.

Cellular stress at the movies
For the first time, biological imaging experts have used a custom fluorescence microscope and a novel antibody tagging tool to watch living cells undergoing stress.

Read More: Stress News and Stress Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.