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Partners’ job demands affect men more than women


Sophie Crossfield, from the University of Hertfordshire, told the annual occupational psychology conference of the British Psychological Society in Brighton that she had been extremely surprised to find that men were more than twice as likely as women to feel depressed about the demands of their partner's job.

"Off-loading the worries of the day on your partner at night is a commonplace experience," she said. "What we did not expect to find was that while there was a very strong relationship between the women's work stress and the anxiety suffered by their spouse, women showed only modest evidence of being made depressed by the pressures of the men's jobs."

Research had suggested previously that women tend to play a supportive role and suffer with their husband's work stresses. Most of this work has been based on couples where the man alone is in a high-stress job.

Ms Crossfield, who runs a consultancy business with her husband but says she does not take out her own stresses on him, studied 40 couples in which the partners had equal work status.

She suggested that while women have good support networks among friends and relatives, men tended to rely on their wife or girlfriend as their sole source of emotional support and so suffered more when she was preoccupied.

"It could be that the women are tougher," Ms Crossfield said. "The couples worked mainly in male-dominated professions, such as finance and information technology. It may be that to get to the top the women had to develop greater levels of resourcefulness, self-support and self-sufficiency. It is also possible that work demands on high-status female workers result in them relying heavily on their partners for emotional support."

Alternatively, the results - the same among couples with and without children - could mean that women might be too busy worrying about domestic chores - for which they are still largely responsible.


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