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Work-life conflicts have a negative impact on health

A poor work-life balance may be more of a threat to our well-being than previously realized, according to a new study published by Biomed Central. Beyond the stress associated with working too much, researchers have found that a lack of quality personal, social, and family time is associated with generally poorer health.

Working adults are often faced with the challenge of juggling work deadlines, financial obligations, and urgent responsibilities at home.  With a limited number of hours in the day, work-life conflicts are basically inevitable.

According to new research, the pressure of trying to strike a good balance between work and personal life can take a major toll on our health.

To investigate, researchers analyzed data from the 6th European Working Condition Survey, which involved 32,275 working adults in 30 countries. 

Survey participants reported on their general health and how well their work schedule fit with family or social commitments.

The analysis revealed that adults who reported poor work-life balance were twice as likely to also report poor health. The association was slightly higher among women than men, even though men reported poor work-life balance more frequently. 

Men were found to be more likely to have the freedom to choose their own work hours, while women mostly had work schedules that were determined by their employers.

Study lead author Aziz Mensah is a doctoral researcher at the University of Bielefeld.

“Traditional and societal expectations of behavior for men and women, where women are responsible for caregiving and household activities and men responsible for paid work, may explain the gender work-life imbalance and adverse health outcomes we observed,” said Mensah.

The researchers also compared work-life conflict and self-reported health across different regions in Europe. Working adults in the Nordic countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway, were the most likely to report a good work-life balance.

By contrast, men and women in Southern Europe, including Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, and Malta, were the least likely to report having a good work-life balance.

“Long working hours, increased psychological involvement in work, inflexible working times and role overload can all contribute to work-life conflict among employees. Variations in socioeconomic policies common to multiple countries, such as parental leave, support for child and elderly care, and general welfare and equality policies, may also have an effect on the balance of work and family life,” said study co-author Dr. Nicholas Kofi Adjei.

According to the researchers, the findings highlight a need for organizations and policymakers to provide working conditions and social policies which allow adults to deal with competing demands from work and family activities without a negative effect on health.

The study is published in the journal BMC Public Health.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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