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Work-family conflicts raise safety concerns

July 11, 2003
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Conflict between roles at work and at home affect 11 percent of working men and women and may lead to fatigue and other mental health problems, reports a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Researchers analyzed rates, risk factors, and consequences of work-family conflict in a sample of more than 12,000 Dutch workers. Researchers defined work-family conflict as some degree of "mutual incompatibility" between pressures on the job and at home, leaving the person with insufficient time and energy to perform either role successfully.

At the beginning of the study, about 11 percent of workers reported work-family conflict; the rate was somewhat higher for men than women. Couples with children living at home and workers who lived alone had the highest rates of work-family conflict, about 12 percent. Couples without children at home had the lowest rate, 8.5 percent.

For men, several job-related factors increased the risk of work-family conflict, including shift work, job insecurity, and conflict with co-workers or supervisors. Men who bore full responsibility for housework or cared for a chronically ill child or other family member were also at higher risk.

Other factors lowered the rate of work-family conflict for men, including having some decision-making ability at work and receiving support from co-workers and supervisors.

For women, high physical job demands and having to work overtime increased the risk of work-family conflict. Long commuting times and having to care for children were also important risk factors. The only factor that reduced the risk of work-family conflict for women was having domestic help.

Previous studies have linked work-family conflict to various mental health problems, including job dissatisfaction and burnout, depression, and marital dissatisfaction.

The new follow-up data strongly suggest that work-family conflict led to fatigue and increased need for recovery after a day's work. The longer work-family conflict had been present, the greater these problems became.

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