Had a hard day at work? Step away from that kitchen sink!
A recent study published in the Journal of Family Psychology has given us all the proof we needed that housework is bad for our health, for both wives and husbands, being linked to a reduced ability to unwind and de-stress after work.
The participants in this study were couples where both partners worked full-time and had at least one child between the age of eight and ten years old; a group likely to be experiencing considerable demands on their time after work. Experimenters sampled levels of the stress hormone cortisol throughout the day, alongside taking observations of daily activities at 10 minute intervals, to understand how parents’ activities affect end-of-the day physiological recovery from work.
Effective recovery from everyday stress is shown to be important to physical health, and cortisol has been found to peak shortly after waking and drop steadily throughout the day, with the steepness of this drop being linked to many measures of health and well-being, whilst higher levels of cortisol are linked to depression, chronic stress, and even a shorter life span.
This study looked at after-work recovery and the drop in cortisol levels from afternoon to evening, as a function of engagement in housework or leisure activities, and found that both wives and husbands who spent more time doing housework had higher levels of evening cortisol and weaker afternoon-to-evening recovery. So, both spouses now have a better excuse than ever to shun the vacuum and shirk the cleaning duties with the valid excuse of it being bad for their long-term health.
This study also suggested that fair division of housework can be important for regulating stress levels for women, with evidence that husbands’ increased housework time predicted stronger evening cortisol recovery for wives. However, husbands who apportioned more time to leisure, and whose partners apportioned less time to leisure showed stronger after-work recovery, suggesting that it is more restful to pursue leisure activities while someone else is taking care of the household duties.
These findings suggest that both men and women are happier when their spouse is taking responsibility for the housework, but with housework being bad for the stress levels for both spouses, what is the solution?
Time to call Why Bother?