Housework Creates Gender Divide


Not surprisingly, a study finds that the genders differ when it comes to relaxing at the end of the day.  I say not surprisingly because it is the stuff of sitcoms.  Father in his study with a pipe and newspaper, and Mother cooking or doing dishes.  Relaxing together doesn’t actually work.

Darby Saxbe from the University of Southern California measured cortisol levels in 30 dual career couples after observing and recording location and activities every ten minutes while the couples were at home. In each couple, both partners worked full time and they had at least one child.

Simply put, cortisol is the stress chemical found in our endocrine systems.  These levels can affect sleep, weight gain, burnout and weakened immune resistance.  The lower the level, the healthier the reaction.

Saxbe and her team found that women most frequently pursue activities in housework, communication and leisure; men spend the most time in leisure activities, followed by communication and housework.

When both spouses entered into housework activities, their cortisol levels rose.  This makes sense; doing chores doesn’t help one relax usually.  However, female levels of cortisol were lower when their husbands helped them or worked with them side by side.  Levels in men reduced only when they were allowed to relax and their wives continued the work.

A biological explanation is that stress is relieved when your partner is under stress, implying that you don’t have to carry the burden alone.  The difference seems to be in perception of burden.

Saxbe commented on her research this way:  “The quality of relationships makes a big difference in a person’s health. Divvying up the housework with your partner may be just as important [to your health] as eating your vegetables.”


Related Stories:

Cooking and Cleaning Makes Fathers Healthier and Happier

Balancing the Diapers — Now That Women Make More, Equality is Overrated

A Woman’s Ph.D. is Worth a Man’s B.A.


photo credit: x-ray delta one


Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan6 years ago

I get more stressed when my partner helps me as he gets in the way most of the time.

April Thompson
April Thompson6 years ago

Wish my husband would help me more around the house!

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

steve l.
Past Member 6 years ago

The women I know sit at Starbuck's all afternnon drinking coffee while their husbands work 80 hours week--and the women still bitch about how their husbands don't do anything around the house. That's because they're exhausted from working their butts off to pay your bills, honey.

Lilithe Magdalene

Funny that we need a study about cortisol to figure out that a woman feels less stressed when her mate helps out with the chores.

Amanda M.
Amanda M6 years ago

Shalvah L, that's because married men get to sit on their butts for more than five seconds while their wives are running around doing all the housework AND working outside the home!

Maureen North
Maureen North6 years ago

I think it's best for couples to share housework. It's not fair to expect one spouse to do everything, especially is they both work full-time.

Craig Zimmerman
Craig Zimmerman6 years ago

It's fun to do household chores together.

Masha Samoilova
Past Member 6 years ago

I let my husband do the work, he likes it

James Williamson
James Williamson6 years ago

I believe that in a marriage each partner should contribute equally in labor to whatever is needed. If I want to cook a certain dish, my wife is happy to have me do that. But, honestly, she loves to cook and would prefer that I do other things that I enjoy or am good at. It is honesty and openness and letting each other be who they are that creates a strong bond - not conforming to some standard or stereotype.