The secret is out: There’s a reason we can’t or won’t stop working. It’s not always for the money or love of the job. We do it because it is a lot less stressful than staying at home.
That’s right. According to a new study in the Journal of Science and Medicine, both sexes in a range of occupations (more about that later) showed lower levels of stress indicators at work than at home. (The study measured participants’ levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, throughout the day.)
But the real stunner in this study is that women, even more than men, find the workplace to be more tranquil. Reports Brigid Schulte at The Washington Post:
“We found a big gender difference,” said Sarah Damaske, a sociologist and women’s studies professor at Penn State and one of the report authors. “Women were much happier at work than at home. And men were only moderately happier at home than at work.”
Truth is, women are going batty at home. The reason: Their responsibilities at home are endless and daunting. “At work, people are potentially completing tasks,” said Damaske to the Post. “They’re not multi-tasking.”
Indeed, women are multitasking themselves to the brink of exhaustion. As I’ve often written, women have a hard time breaking the straight-A student syndrome: the idea that we have to excel at everything, both at home and at work. How many times have I witnessed high-powered moms who also run the school auction, bake luscious homemade cupcakes for the class, etc.? I don’t know if they enjoy or resent doing it all; I only know they look spent.
So is the solution for women to throw in the towel on either the home or work front? Well, quitting work doesn’t seem like a good solution for women in the long run. Reports the Post:
Mothers who work steadily full-time in their 20s and 30s report better mental and physical health at age 45 than mothers who work part-time, stay home with children, or have been unemployed.
What the report suggests is that working gives women long term benefits—even if they have to do a lot of complicated juggling in the short term.
Given the salubrious effects of work, shouldn’t we all worship at the altar of the workplace? And isn’t it high time that lawyers stop complaining about their jobs? Instead of thinking of the firm as a dreaded destination, shouldn’t they view it instead as a pleasant spa experience?
Alas, the study finds that those in the high income category ($75,000 or more) defied the finding. For them, both sexes registered higher levels of cortisol at work, and were both happier at home.
In other words, expect no palliative effect from work if you labor in Big Law. For you, there is no escape.
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