Trying to Achieve Work-Life Balance Adds to Stress at Home, Study Finds

People are more stressed out at home than they are at work, perhaps because they are trying to juggle so many responsibilities at the same time.

Working mother with child on couch
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By Allison Linn

People are more stressed out at home than they are at work, perhaps because they are trying to juggle so many responsibilities at the same time, new research shows.

"It seems like a lot of the stress at home comes from combining work and home responsibilities," said Sarah Damaske, assistant professor of labor, employment relations and sociology at the Pennsylvania State University.

Penn State asked 122 working adults to both self-report their stress levels at various intervals throughout the day and to take a swab measuring cortisol, a major marker of stress. They found for the majority of participants, cortisol levels were higher at home than at work. The participants' self-reported stress readings didn't necessarily match with actual stress levels, and the findings don't necessarily suggest that people should work more, or that they aren't happy at home -- but Damaske, one of the report's authors, thinks it implies the stress of trying to get everything done at home and at work tends to come out once people are home.

Still, she said the findings reinforce other research showing that people who work are healthier. Other research has found that works both ways-healthier people are more likely to be employed, and employment also appears to have additional health benefits in and of itself. "What we're finding suggests that work is good for you -- that there actually are benefits to working," she said.

The Penn State findings were consistent for men and women, and similar for parents and non-parents. The one exception was higher-income workers, who Damaske said had equal levels of stress at work and home. She said that makes sense, given previous research showing that higher status jobs are more stressful.

There's plenty of research showing that parents in particular are stressed out by juggling work and family responsibilities. A Pew Research Center report released last year found that more than half of moms and dads found it difficult to balance the two. A separate study, released by Insights In Marketing earlier this year, also showed that many moms and dads were struggling to balance "having it all."

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I must admit it is very overwhelming to attend to family, work AND school. Work and family stressful? Not for me, I love both and would those two would be a piece of cake. School definitely sucks any leisure time I would have.

May 27 2014 at 11:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
welcome timothy

I don't have a wife and/or kids, I love what I do and I make a good living for myself, I do agree if it wasn't for my work I would be significantly unhealthier and poor.

May 27 2014 at 12:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This doesn't address the impact of actually or virtually bringing the job or work home where it supplants normal home activity, nor the impact of employers who rigidly stress meeting time deadlines which causes employees to bring work home to complete.

May 26 2014 at 10:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Leroy Gd

Work stress? Just do what the socialist democrats suggests, stop working and have the government pay for your way, including having the rest of the tax payers cover your health care costs. Yep become a deadbeat and become a democrat. Our great leaders like obama, pelosi and reid recommend this life style. A special thanks to the numb nut lefty liberals who put these fools into office.

May 26 2014 at 8:00 AM Report abuse -9 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Leroy Gd's comment

Right wing sarcasm, too bad that is all they have to offer America.

May 26 2014 at 8:54 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply