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Tuesday 25th June 2019

Housework bad for blood pressure

14th January 2011

The pressure of running a household has been found to increase blood pressure in busy adults.


Researchers are warning that housework can be bad for the heart, as a new study tracked the blood pressure of people carrying out simple household chores from cleaning and cooking to carrying out repairs and budgeting.

The findings show that there is still plenty of stress waiting for us when we finish the day's paid work, with people who see themselves as doing most of the work at greatest risk.

The research team from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine followed a group of 113 men and women in full-time work, taking details of how many hours they worked and how much responsibility they carried for chores in the home.

Over a three-week period, the participants had their blood pressure check at a local clinic.

Then, they were given a blood pressure monitor to wear all day, both at work, and at home, while performing household chores.

Those who felt they were shouldering the responsibility were at the greatest risk of high blood pressure, regardless of how much work they actually did.

Writing in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, the researchers said the damage to health might come from the stress about the workload in the home, rather than from the chores themselves.

What was most distressing for participants was the perception that they were doing most of the work in the home.

However, some household tasks are not good for the heart, according to the study.

Cleaning, cooking and shopping were associated with the strongest link with high blood pressure.

Managing the household budget, paying bills and car maintenance and repair were next on the list of stress-boosters.

On the other hand, looking after children had no adverse effects on blood pressure.

Where pets were concerned, women tended to find caretaking chores less stressful than men did.

Little research has been done into the stress associated with running a home and a family until now.

Hundreds of studies have looked at the links between stress at work and the risk of heart attacks and strokes, however.

Around 270,000 people suffer a heart attack every year in the UK alone, and nearly one in three die before they even reach hospital, making heart disease the nation's biggest killer.

Around half of strokes and heart attacks are blamed on high blood pressure, which affects one in five people in the UK.

Clinical guidelines state the ideal limit for blood pressure is a systolic reading of 140mmHg and a diastolic reading of 90mmHg.

Household chores increased systolic readings by as much as 4.4mmHg, taking care of house or car repairs by 2.64mmHg and paying bills by 1.66mmHg.

The level of affluence also played a part, with poorer families more likely to be affected than richer ones.

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