Healthy living * Mental wellbeing

Promotion is bad for mental health

be careful what you wish for Wealthier, but not healthier following promotion

A new study by researchers at the University of Warwick has found that promotion produces, on average, 10% more mental strain and results in up to 20% less time to visit the doctor.

In a research paper entitled “Do People Become Healthier after Being Promoted” Chris Boyce and Professor Andrew Oswald investigated why people with higher job status seem to have better health.

A long-held assumption by researchers is that an increase in job status via promotion, directly results in better health due to an increased sense of life control and self-worth.

The researchers tested this. They drew upon 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 feelings of health declined.

However, what they did find, was significantly greater mental strain. After a job promotion, there was on average a 10% decrease in people’s mental health across the British population.

Intriguingly, those promoted at work also reported on average a 20% fall in their visits to a doctor following promotion.

On first sight the drop in doctor visits 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 on promoted people may be more constraints on their time and they simply have less time to visit 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 surgeries, which may itself be something to worry about rather than celebrate.”

This article was published on Fri 10 April 2009

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