Business Trips Cause Stress at Home

Spouses of Travelers Have More Mental Health, Skin, Gut Problems

March 8, 2002 -- Stressed out by your spouse's frequent business trips? You're not alone. Partners of frequent business travelers are three times as likely to suffer mental health problems, says a new study.

"It is beginning to be understood that the boundary between the workplace and the home is permeable," says lead author L. A. Dimberg, a researcher with The World Bank in Washington, D.C. Dimberg's paper appears in a recent issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

"Enlightened companies are acknowledging this conflict as a legitimate business issue" and making changes, he says.

Dimberg's study looked at health insurance claims made by spouses of World Bank employees, two-thirds of whom travel at least once a year (one-third travel at least four times a year).

More than 4,600 spouses made a claim during the one-year study period. Female spouses were twice as likely to file claims as male spouses. Male employees also traveled more often than female employees, he reports.

Dimberg also found that:

  • Irrespective of gender, male and female spouses of frequent business travelers overseas filed 16% more claims than spouses of non-travelers.
  • Spouses of frequent travelers were twice as likely to file claims for psychological stress-related disorders.
  • Four or more overseas assignments a year tripled the claims for spouses' stress-related conditions.
  • Medical insurance claims for skin and gut disorders were significantly higher among male spouses of frequent business travelers.

Skin diseases such as psoriasis and dermatitis -- as well as gut problems such as gastritis, irritable colon, and inflammatory bowel disease (for example, Crohn's disease) -- have been linked with psychological stress, he says.

The number of days away from home, changes in travel dates and their adverse effects on family plans, and lack of control over travel all were factors in the stress.

"It was clear that for the female spouses, a traveling husband means a disruption of family life, difficulties with children, and feelings of missing the traveler," writes Dimberg.

© 2002 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.



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