Work family balance, stress, and salivary cortisol in men and women academic physicians
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Background: The stress of medical practice has been recurrently studied, but work- and family-related determinants of health by gender remain under researched. Purpose: To test the hypothesis that cortisol excretion would be affected by the perceived severity of total workload imbalance. Method: By hierarchical regression analysis, the associations between work-family balance and diurnal salivary cortisol levels by sex in academic physicians (n = 40) were investigated. Results: Men physicians reported more paid work hours per week than women physicians and women more time in childcare, but their total working hours were similar. Controlling for sex and age, the mean of the diurnal cortisol release was associated with a combined effect of sex and responsibility at home. When morning cortisol, sex, and children at home were held constant, cortisol levels in the evening were associated with responsibility at home without significant gender interaction. Conclusion: With increasing responsibility at home, women and men reacted differently with regard to cortisol responses over the day. However, in the evening, controlling for the morning cortisol, these gender differences were not as obvious. These findings highlight traditional gender patterns among both women and men physicians in the challenge of finding a balance between work and family.