Happy Marriage Soothes Job Stress

Rough Day at Work? Stress Hormone Fades Faster for Happily Married Wives

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on January 03, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 3, 2008 -- A woman's satisfaction with her marriage may affect how quickly she bounces back from a hard day at work.

Happily married wives tend to bounce back better after a rocky day on the job, according to a new study of 60 California couples.

All of the spouses had full-time jobs. Each couple also had two to three kids and a mortgage.

For four days, the husbands and wives kept diaries about their job stress. They also provided saliva samples four times daily and rated their marital satisfaction.

The researchers measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva samples. After a stressful day at work, cortisol levels faded fastest in happily married wives.

That finding suggests that it's easier for satisfied wives to unwind from work stress, while women in unhappy marriages don't get as much comfort from coming home.

"Wives in happier marriages may have had greater access to the space, time, and support needed to recuperate after busy days," write the researchers, who included psychology graduate student Darby Saxbe of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Husbands were a different story. After negative social interactions at work, men's cortisol levels stayed high in the evening, even for those in happy marriages.

Why the split between husbands and wives? It may be because the body's ways of coping with stress may be more sensitive to marital quality in women than in men, Saxbe's team notes.

The study is due to appear in January's edition of Health Psychology, notes a UCLA news release.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Saxbe, D. Health Psychology, January 2008. News release, University of California, Los Angeles.

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