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Workaholics can’t compensate for an unhappy home life

Media release

People who try to deal with an unhappy home life by investing more time and effort at work are deluding themselves, according to a new study recently published by the British Journal of Management.

In a detailed survey of more than 10,000 workers across 30 European countries, the study found there was an overall link between job and life satisfaction – especially for the main earners in households. However, this did not extend to anyone attempting to use work to compensate for dissatisfaction in their personal life.

The published article, ‘Traditional versus Secular Values and the Job-Life Satisfaction Relationship Across Europe’, was co-authored by Thomas Lange, Adjunct Professor of Human Resource Management at Curtin University and Professor in Economics at Middlesex University Business School in London. 

“Clearly, life and work domains are interlinked,” Professor Lange said.

“Happiness at home affects your job satisfaction and vice versa. However, we have found no evidence to suggest that people who are very unhappy at home will feel in any way ‘compensated’ by their working life.

“We know that unhappy people are insecure and have low self-esteem. Because of their negative disposition, these individuals can’t easily relate to other people at a deeper level, and they feel lonely. Since they are not happy with themselves or their lives, they resort to escapism, including workaholism. However, our results indicate that this is a mistake, if the expectation is that more work translates into a happier life.”

The results in western European countries with a similar GDP per capita, including France, Germany and Austria, demonstrated a weaker link between job and life satisfaction. Yet, there is a much stronger relationship between happiness in the office and at home in Eastern European countries with more traditional value sets and lower GDP per capita, such as Croatia, Hungary and Romania.

“The majority of people in countries where more traditional values are prevalent report that work is extremely important in their lives. But this is not always the case for individuals in more modern, less traditional countries where work is considered to be only a small part of their character and personality,” Professor Lange said.

According to the research, certain life events also play an important role.

“We found that happiness at work becomes clearly less important to women’s overall satisfaction when they have pre-school children, potentially due to changing priorities of working mothers,” Professor Lange said.

“This picture changes considerably when children become teenagers and mothers feel that returning to work becomes a realistic possibility once more.”
Similarly, the research suggests the relationship between job satisfaction and general happiness in life is much stronger among single people than for married individuals.

About Professor Lange

Thomas Lange is Adjunct Professor of Human Resource Management at Curtin University, Western Australia and Professor in Economics at Middlesex University Business School, London. A German-born economist and applied statistician by training, he commenced his academic career in the UK where he held appointments as Department Chair, Dean of Faculty and Pro Vice Chancellor. He also served as Research Dean in New Zealand and Dean (Leadership & Change Management) at Curtin Business School in Perth.
He has written extensively in the HR research arena and is Associate Editor of the International Journal of Manpower and Editor-in-Chief of Evidence-based HRM: A Global Forum for Empirical Scholarship.

Professor Lange’s policy proposals were debated publicly during parliamentary sessions and his academic work has been covered widely by international press and media outlets. His research results informed the policy work of the World Bank, International Labour Organisation, European Commission, numerous central and local government departments, economic development agencies, and industry associations worldwide.


Professor Thomas Lange
Adjunct Professor of Human Resource Management at Curtin University
Tel: (+44) 208 411 3613

April Kleer, Public Relations Consultant, Curtin University
Tel: (08) 9266 3353, Mobile: 0401 103 018

Twitter: @CurtinPR