LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — Stress balls, miniature zen gardens and other anxiety relief trinkets are often found on workers’ desks, but a new study suggests that the office is not where those items are most needed.

A team of Penn State researchers say they found that people’s cortisol hormone levels, a major biological indicator of stress, actually tend to be significantly lower at work than they are at home.

That includes men, women, parents and non-parents alike.

However, women report themselves happier at work than at home while that trend is reversed for men and parents did not experience as big a decrease in their stress levels while at work as non-parents did.

One of the study’s authors, Sarah Damaske, is an assistant professor of Labor Studies & Employment Relations, and Sociology at Penn State.

“These low levels of cortisol may help explain a long-standing finding that has always been hard to reconcile with the idea that work is a major source of stress,” she says.

“People who work have better mental and physical health than their non-working peers, according to research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Science Research, the American Sociological Review, and the Handbook of the Sociology of Mental Health.”

Damaske says the research suggests that “companies should consider adopting family friendly policies that allow workers to continue getting the health benefits of employment while still being able to meet their family responsibilities.”


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