‘Israelis stress less than Americans in home care’

Health Scan: Taking care of both elderly parents and kids is less stressful for Israeli couples than American couples.

By
March 31, 2012 22:57
4 minute read.
New parents

Parenthood cartoon 370. (photo credit: MCT)

Surprisingly, Israeli working couples in the “sandwich generation” who take care both of elderly parents and their own young children suffer less burnout than their American counterparts. This is a finding of a new Ben-Gurion University of the Negev study that looked at job and couple burnout rates in a cross-cultural comparison of Americans and Israelis.

In the paper, just published in Social Psychology Quarterly, Prof. Ayala Malach Pines and colleagues studied the little-known phenomenon of “couple burnout.” Representative samples of Israeli and American sandwiched couples responded to a questionnaire that included measures of job burnout, couple burnout and accounts of the stressors and rewards associated with work, marriage, parenting and caring for aging parents.

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Findings revealed significant differences in burnout type (job burnout was higher than couple burnout); gender (wives were more burned out than husbands); and country (Americans were more burned out than Israelis). They also documented the role of job-related stressors and rewards as well as caring for parents as predictors of job burnout and the role of marital stressors and rewards as predictors of couple burnout.

The BGU researchers found a significant spillover effect, in which the higher a husband’s or wife’s job stressors, the higher was his or her couple burnout; the higher a husband’s or a wife’s marital stress and the more marital stressors, the higher was his or her job burnout.

The most unexpected finding was the low levels of both job and couple burnout among the sandwiched couples when compared to the general population. Focus groups, in which couples described the major causes of their burnout and the things that helped them cope, conducted as part of the study helped explain this surprising finding. One theme that came up in each of the focus groups was the stress involved in caring for aging parents: “The most difficult is that my parents are growing old...they were always there for me... it’s difficult to see the regression, the beginning of insecurity. This is the hardest,” the participants constantly said.

Couples’ caring for aging parents together was shown to have a positive effect on their marriage and therefore reduced couple burnout: “I think that it strengthens the marriage when both partners support each other and go to visit the parents together... It gives me a good feeling when I go with my wife to visit her parents, and she feels good when she comes with me to visit my parents,” was a typical comment.

SWEETER THAN SUGAR
Metabolism researchers agree that significant consumption of sugar is deadly, even for healthy people and not only for the overweight, obese and diabetic. But artificial sweeteners usually have an unpleasant aftertaste. Now there is good news: Two local companies have put on the market sweeteners based on the natural plant stevia, which comes from the sunflower family and is native to subtropical and tropical regions from North and South America.



The species Stevia rebaudiana is grown for its sweet leaves whose extracts are up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar. Because stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose and is calorie free, it is attractive as a natural sweetener for people on carbohydrate-controlled diets, and its availability has encouraged international drinks manufacturers to use it. Farmers in the Jezreel Valley have now have started to expand the supply of the plant, which is also available in many nurseries.

After approval was issued by the US Food and Drug Administration and the equivalent bodies in Europe, our own Health Ministry recently approved the use of stevia powder and tablets as a table sweetener. The first two companies to provide the powder in packets are the Sucrazit and Nufar companies.

Stevia in its convenient liquid form will soon appear on the market.

Sucrazit calls its product Sucrazit Meihateva, charging NIS 18 to NIS 43, depending on the number of packets.

Both have kashrut approval and can be used in cold or hot beverages or even in cooking and baking. Nufar’s large box is called Nufar Stevia; it contains 100 bags, each one with enough sweetener for about five cups each and priced at NIS 76.

At present they are sold in natural products shops and pharmacies, but it is inevitable that they will replace the artificial sweetener products sold in supermarkets.

MONITORING ABUSE OF SUSPECTS
A Health Ministry committee to examine reports from doctors of alleged harm to the subjects of criminal investigations was established recently for the first time. The committee, appointed by ministry associate director-general Dr. Boaz Lev, was comprised of Prof. Zvi Stern (director of Hadassah University Medical Center on Mount Scopus); Dini Orkin (chief medical officer of the Prisons Service); Prof. Avinoam Reches (chairman of the Israel Medical Association’s ethics bureau); Eyal Hako (legal adviser for the Jerusalem Mental Health Center); and Varda Alafia (coordinator of the committee on behalf of Lev’s office).

The committee’s task is to serve as the address for medical team members who suspect harm to the health of suspects under investigation. The complaints will be discussed and dealt with during discussions with the responsible authorities, the ministry said.


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