Being in charge may affect health

Being in charge may affect health

A new study shows potential downside of authority positions.
Dec 10, 2009
By staff

Most of us want to make the best of our careers. No matter the motivation—wealth, recognition, or service to science—there is often an underlying push to obtain or hang on to elite stations. But, whether you already hold a position of prestige and authority such as veterinarian or practice owner or aspire to climb the professional ladder, have you considered how such a work position might affect your health? A study shows that higher-status jobs do have an impact on well being.

Research conducted by the University of Toronto indicates that higher-status careers have negative health effects, though the results may be more difficult to discern. The study found that people in positions of authority—defined as those who manage others or have control over hiring and wages—report medical complaints. Physical problems included headaches and fatigue; psychological symptoms noted were anxiety and sleep trouble. The maladies stemmed from greater conflict at work and stress carried over from office to home—common issues for those in positions of power.

What makes these problems less obvious, notes the report in the journal Social Science & Medicine, is that the net impact is negligible. The benefits of the more esteemed jobs—higher pay, greater status, increased autonomy—essentially negate the drawbacks. This is contrary to the previously held belief that such jobs had no effect at all on health.

So strive for greatness and enjoy its rewards. But also recognize and address the potentially negative consequences that go with the territory.

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