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First Published Tuesday, 14 April 2009


By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News


April 9, 2009 — Tension, backbiting, and poor team spirit at the workplace may increase the risk for depression, a new study says.


More…


Job promotion can be bad for mental health


Peter Dunn


Research by University of Warwick economics and psychology researchers has found that promotion on average produces 10 percent more mental strain and gives up to 20 percent less time to consult a physician.


Chris Boyce and Professor Andrew Oswald questioned why people with higher job status seem to have better health. A long-held assumption by researchers is that an improvement to a person’s job status, through a promotion, will directly result in better health due to an increased sense of life control and self-worth.


The researchers tested this using the British Household Panel Survey data set, collected annually between 1991 and 2005, with information on approximately 1000 individual promotions. They found no evidence of improved physical health after promotion – nor that self-assessed health status declined.


What they did find, however, was significantly greater mental strain. After a job promotion, there was on average a 10 percent decrease in people’s mental health measured in a standardized way across the British population. Intriguingly, those promoted at work also reported on average a 20 percent fall in their visits to a doctor following their promotion. On first sight this drop does not match the lack of change in the reported health of promoted individuals. But the increased stress levels of promoted workers may provide an explanation — part of the stress of their promotion may be more constraints on their time and they simply have less time to see a doctor.


University of Warwick researcher Chris Boyce said, “Getting a promotion at work is not as great as many people think. Our research finds that the mental health of managers typically deteriorates after a job promotion, and in a way that goes beyond merely a short-term change. There are no indications of any health improvements for promoted people other than reduced attendance at GP [physicians] surgeries, which may itself be something to worry about rather than celebrate.


The research will be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s conference later this month.


Boyce CJ, Oswald AJ. Do People Become Healthier after Being Promoted? IZA Disc. Paper 3894, IZA – Institute for the Study of Labor, 2008 Dec.   [Full text (PDF)]



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