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Published On: Thu, Mar 6th, 2014

Does your husband work long hours?

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To a woman juggling work and childcare, it might sound like surprising news.

But the longer hours a man works, the healthier his wife is, researchers claim.

Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas found increased income is the main reason that a female spouse enjoys better health.

However a man whose wife works full-time has the best health of all, the study found.

The study examined the potential consequences of men’s and women’s work time on the health of their spouses.

Although the women whose husbands worked long hours were healthiest, this wasn’t the case for any one who in the traditional ‘breadwinner’ model, in which the husband works long hours and the wife works very few hours or stays at home.

Study co-author Dr Sibyl Kleiner said: ‘Workers aren’t just isolated units…[so] is there some way that that work is not only affecting yourself, but other members of your family?

‘We found that husbands working particularly long hours have wives who are in the best health.

‘When we tried to investigate why that might be, the main finding was that it was the income those husbands were bringing into the household that was making that small, yet statistically significant difference.’

For the study, she and Dr. Eliza K. Pavalko, of Indiana University, investigated three mechanisms through which spousal hours might affect health: resources from the job, stress and time for exercise.

And if a woman works too much overtime, her husband’s health tends to suffer, researchers found.

Dr Kleiner explained: ‘When we tested this to see what might help explain this link, it seemed to be due to those husbands getting less time for exercise, compared to having a wife who worked [only] 40 hours a week.’

She added: ‘We don’t find that long hours worked by women are helping their husbands’ health by bringing in more resources to the household.’

‘Even though most of the wives are working full time, the income that they’re bringing into the household is much smaller than their husbands.

‘I think if there were greater gender equality in terms of pay, we would see a different pattern there.’

The study was published online in the journal Social Forces.

The health data was collected when the respondents turned 40 years old, and the data on their spouses’ work hours was collected about two years earlier.

Dr Kleiner added: ‘There are a lot of studies that try to look at work and health that are cross-sectional – they just look at one point in time.

‘There are some studies that are able to look over time, but they typically are limited to a single occupation, like nurses or civil servants.

‘One advantage of our study is it’s nationally representative, and it is looking over time to some extent.’




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