Wives are fast catching up to and even passing their husband in the race to be a family's main breadwinner, but success has a very dark side on a couple's sex life: Men out-earned by their wives suffer from higher rates of erectile dysfunction and women are more likely to be wracked with anxiety and insomnia.
A huge new study from a Washington University professor and two colleagues from Denmark found that if a wife earns just 8 percent more than her husband, he has a much greater chance of needing Viagra or another ED drug. And the more the gap grows, the worse the husband's condition can get.
"We observe a sharp increase, approximately 10 percent, in the use of ED drugs when women slightly outearn their husbands, compared with when they are slightly out-earned. Similarly, we see wives near the point of income equality having increased stress or insomnia when they are the primary breadwinner. Furthermore, the increase in ED medication usage continues as the gap between the wages of the wife and husband increases," said the study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Women are cutting the wage gap nationally. A recent Time report said that 22 percent of women earn more than men on average. In the Washington area wages are much closer. In Prince Georges County, Maryland, according to New America Foundation, women earn 99-cents to ever $1 a man makes.
The authors studied data of 200,000 married couples in Denmark where information is more readily available than in the United States. They noted that the results could be even worse in the United States where there is a longer tradition of husbands being a family's breadwinner.
The results showed that as soon as wives began earning more than their husbands, sex drugs were needed. "Men out-earned by their wives are more likely to use erectile dysfunction medication than their male breadwinner counterparts, even when this inequality is small. Breadwinner wives suffer increased insomnia/anxiety medication usage, with similar effects for men," said the study.
The authors speculated on why women breadwinners suffer. "We can only speculate whether this insomnia and anxiety come from direct psychological costs or as spillovers from the reduced psychological or sexual health of husbands, and what role it might play in the sexual health of both partners," they said.
The authors found that the problems only occurred among married couples, however. In singles where girlfriends out-earned boyfriends, there were no sexual or anxiety issues.
And there were no problems among married couples where the husband knew his wife would earn more.
"These results suggest that marriage plays some role in defining the social norm of male breadwinner, as we observe no apparent ED costs in unmarried men with higher earning cohabitants," they found.
"The odds ratios indicate that being out-earned by a spouse increases the likelihood of ED medication usage by approximately 20% near the income equality point. Together, these results suggest that breadwinner status is only associated with ED medication usage for those men who did not knowingly marry a female breadwinner. Men who knowingly married a female breadwinner appear to suffer no costs from being out-earned," said the study.