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Home is more Stressful than Work, Study Finds

Update Date: May 23, 2014 10:36 AM EDT
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Even though many American adults complain about their workload and stress levels, a new report found that these complaints might not all be real. Researcher Sarah Damaske, a professor of labor and employment at Pennsylvania State University, set out to determine if work is indeed more stressful than home. Damaske and her team discovered that being at home might actually be harder than being at work.

"The fact that people's stress levels go down when they are at work, I don't think it means that they don't like their homes or their kids,'' said study's lead author, Damaske, reported by the New York Times. "I think it suggests that there is something about work that is good for you. Being in the moment, focusing on a task, completing that task, socializing with your co-workers - all of these are beneficial and that's part of what's lowering your stress level.''

For this study, the researchers recruited 122 participants and swabbed their saliva six times each day for three days, which included weekdays and weekends. She measured each individual's cortisol levels, which is an indicator of stress. Based on these levels, she found that surprisingly the least stressful part of the day in the majority of people's lives is at work. The findings applied to people across multiple variables, such as gender, education level and occupational level.

"So, a pretty strong finding," Damaske concluded according to NPR.

Along with the saliva samples, Damaske interviewed the participants about their emotions throughout the day. She found that men generally did not experience any huge emotional changes throughout the day. Overall, men reported being happier at home than at work. Women, however, stated that they were much happier when they were at work. Damaske believes that women are feeling less stressed at work because housework after work might be too strenuous.

"Part of this might be women are leaving work and then cooking dinner and doing the dishes," Damaske stated. "Even though men are doing more than they did 30 years ago, it's still not an even distribution."

The researchers added that women might enjoy work more than men because of the differences in job quality between the two genders. Women might feel satisfied from accomplishing their work tasks, whereas men in different positions might not get the same feelings. The researchers hope that the findings could provide more insight into people's emotions regarding work and the home since stereotypes often assume that women prefer being at home.

The study was released by the nonprofit group, Council on Contemporary Families.

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