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Unhappy marriages bad for health ... and business

Edited by Jill Wright,

unhappy marriages bad for health ... and business

Psychologists call it "spillover" - the transferring of experiences from one domain to another. A new theoretical model based on data in an ongoing 2008 study suggests that marital interaction is a predictor of outcomes in both an individual's physical and mental health and his or her work outcomes.

Essentially, the work by the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University indicates that disharmony in employee relationships at home can be costly for business and government as well as the individuals involved.

The study, in the latest edition of the Journal of Marriage and Family - one of the professional journals which helps inflate the cost of maintaining Psychology Melbourne's library - showed that higher levels of negative marital interaction  lead to significantly reduced work satisfaction and poorer health, through a cycle of depression.

 The study authors say their findings support the "clinical and fiscal sense" of the value of Employee Assistance Programs, and their extension to allow employees and their partners to obtain professional help to improve their marital relationships.

It suggests that organisations could profit from developing "company-wide interventions to reduce couple-to-work spillover and provide support for employees at greatest risk for health, mental health and work problems related to couple-level conflict".

The Brigham Young family life faculty has devoted a good deal of research to spillover, generally however in the other direction: from work to the family sphere. Its study of the psychological stress that the somewhat euphemistically named "flexible" workplace puts on young mothers pointed to the need for more support to enable women to cope with competing demands.

A more recent study found that happy marriages have a preventative effect that keeps the partners physically healthier over the years.

 

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.