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Work stress ‘contagion’ affecting relationships

Workplace stress can be transferred from one partner to another in the home, new research has suggested.

Griffith University's Professor Paula Brough said transferred stress is very real and affects couples with or without children.

The researchers said the phenomenon is called ‘stress contagion’.

For the study, published in the Australian Journal of Psychology, the team surveyed 16 couples who all had full-time careers. They found “enough cases” showing that when the work stressor was large enough, it was communicated to a spouse.

The authors said this occurred regardless of the gender of either partner.

About half the participants felt it had significantly impacted their relationship.

Brough said this would then affect their partner’s level of health and wellbeing when they went to work.

The research team said the findings highlight the importance of work-life balance policies to ensure the workplace is psychologically healthy.

“Good workplaces understand the need to support their workers at different life transitions – whether that be with a newborn or an ill relative,” Brough said.

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