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Publication #FAR3109

Marital Problems Spill over to Work1

Suzanna Smith2

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Did you ever have “one of those days” at work when the computer crashed, you spilled coffee all over, your boss was dissatisfied, and, to top it off, a traffic jam snarled your commute? When we finally get home at the end of such a day, we’re probably not at our best. Studies bear this out—when work stress spills over to family life, it can harm family relationships and personal well-being.

What about the reverse though? Do problems at home impact functioning at work? For instance, does employee productivity decline when a marriage isn’t going well?

In fact, a new study of over 1600 married workers in Singapore (Sandberg, Yorgason, Miller, & Hill, 2012) found that marital distress can indeed have a potent workplace impact in two ways. First, more problems in marriage meant lower satisfaction with work. For example, having an argument at home might make it more difficult to be positive and calm at work, or to solve problems in a productive way.

Second, marital distress can lead to depression, and depression affects work satisfaction. Individuals experiencing conflict at home may feel unmotivated and have low-energy, and may struggle with health problems that “stifle” the energy and creativity needed for “work satisfaction and success” (Sandberg et al., 2012, p. 11).

These results suggest that it makes “good business sense” for employers to develop programs and policies that can help employees address marital conflict and depression, such as an onsite counselor or referrals to trusted professionals. Such programs can “reduce common . . . problems,” increase productivity, and, in the long run, save money for employers (p. 11).

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Sandberg, J. G., Yorgason, J. B., Miller, R. B. & Hill, E. J. (2012). Family-to-work spillover in Singapore: Marital distress, physical and mental health, and work satisfaction. Family Relations, 61, 1-15. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2011.00682.x.



This document is FAR3109, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original broadcast date February 22, 2012, as program 1871. Published on EDIS April 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.