Stress levels decrease for women when husbands help with housework

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Men find it easier to chill if their wives are still busy and women prefer hands-on help: Their stress levels improve if their husbands chip in with housework, revealed by researchers.

The new study is published in the April issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.

“Your biological adaptation to stress looks healthier when your partner has to suffer the consequences ? more housework for husbands, less leisure for wives,” said lead author, Darby Saxbe, a postdoctoral fellow in the USC Dornsife College Psychology Department.

For wives, cortisol profiles were healthier if husbands spent more time doing housework. For husbands, in contrast, having more leisure time was linked with healthier cortisol levels ? but only if their wives also spent less time in leisure.

“The result shows that the way couples spend time at home ? not just the way you spend time, but the way your partner spends time as well ? has real implications for long-term health,” Saxbe said.

The study measured stress hormones and daily activities among 30 Los Angeles couples who worked full time and had at least one child. Researchers tracked the families’ activities at 10-minute intervals and sampled their saliva repeatedly over three days.

The saliva samples were then analyzed for cortisol, a hormone that increases in stressful situations.

The study also found that, on average, wives spent more of their time at home doing housework, while husbands had more leisure time.

Cortisol levels can affect sleep, weight gain, burnout and weakened immune resistance.

“The quality of relationships make a big difference in a person’s health,” Saxbe said. “Dividing up your housework fairly with your partner may be as important as eating your vegetables.”

Source: University of Southern California, USA

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