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Men and women need to split housework more evenly — otherwise it could be bad for her health

Calories burned during housework: 20 activities compared

When a woman and a man live together, she almost always ends up spending way more time on the boring household chores than him. This situation doesn’t just frustrate women — it could also be bad for their health.

A study published in BMC Public Health asked more than 35,000 adults aged 65 up, from Western European countries as well as the UK and the US, how much housework they carried out every day.

Overall, the women spent around five hours a day on housework, compared to three hours for the men.

Different types of housework were divided according to predictable gender roles: women spent more than 3.5 hours a day on cleaning, cooking and shopping, compared to a little over an hour for men; while men spent more than an hour on gardening and maintenance tasks, compared to about 40 minutes for women.

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Housework itself is not a bad thing: it’s a handy way to increase physical activity, and study participants who spent the most time on chores were more likely to report being in good health.

“Engaging in a few hours of housework may be beneficial to the health of older adults,” said the study’s co-author Nicholas Adjei, a public health researcher from Germany’s Leibniz Institute, in a statement.

But participants also reported how much they slept every night, and Adjei says he was “surprised” to observe significant gender differences when analysing the combination of time spent on housework activities and time spent sleeping.

“Long periods of housework combined with too much or too little sleep — that is fewer than seven or more than eight hours of sleep, respectively — was associated with poor health among elderly women, whereas in men the same was associated with good health.”

The reason excess housework is bad for women but good for men may be because men’s chores are more likely to increase fitness and muscle level — “they require some form of physical exertion such as carrying equipment for repair works, lawn mowing, shoveling, digging holes and carrying soil,” wrote the study authors.

But women‘s housework is more “repetitive and routine”, the study’s second author Tilman Brand speculated to DW.

“We assume that doing this kind of housework has, at a certain point, limits to the health, where it becomes more stressful with no added health benefits,” he said.

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