Research

Husbands get stressed if their wives earn more

26 Mar 2020 By Siobhan Palmer

Men are most anxious if they are entirely financially dependent on their partner, poll reveals 

A University of Bath study has discovered men become increasingly anxious in line with the extent to which their wives’ earnings exceed 40 per cent of the total household income.

The survey of more than 6,000 heterosexual couples in the US showed that while husbands experienced anxiety when they were the sole breadwinner, becoming less stressed as their spouse’s earnings went up to 40 per cent of household income, they became increasingly uncomfortable once their wives’ salaries increased past this point. Husbands were most stressed if they were entirely financially dependent on their partner. 

The study’s author, Dr Joanna Syrda, economist at the University of Bath’s School of Management, said the findings suggested that “social norms about male breadwinning… can be dangerous for men’s health”, and warned “persistent distress can lead to many adverse health problems, including physical illness and mental, emotional and social problems”. 

The study noted men did not suffer the same psychological consequences if their wife was the higher earner before their marriage. 

According to the Pew Research Centre in the US, just 13 per cent of married women earned more than their husbands in 1980, but this had escalated to almost a third by 2017. 

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