October 21, 2009

That's just the stress talking

Workplace stress is probably not a major issue for this green heron.

Goat Rope has been running an off and on series lately about the links between social status health. The short version is that there is a big connection between the two and that people's health tends to be better the higher up the social ladder they are.

It's not just that people who are poor and/or have relatively low social standing get sicker and die younger, although that is true as far as it goes. Rather, it's like a social gradient that works all the way up or down. People who have very high status are healthier than people who just have high status. And so it goes.

British epidemiologist Michael Marmot, who has spent decades studying this, identifies some key components that might explain the gradient. One big one has to do with autonomy and a sense of control. This is especially true in the workplace.

While most people on the job talk about stress, research indicates that not all stresses are created equal. As Marmot puts it,

Ask more successful people if they are stressed at work and they will tell you, in slightly macho fashion, about how many e-mails they receive a day, how much in demand they are, how many different tasks await their attention, about their deadlines. If you ask about stress, they are unlikely to tell you that work is monotonous, boring, soul-destroying; that they die a little when they come to work each day because their work touches no part of them that is them. But this is the reality of many jobs; and the lower the status, the more likely that is to be so. Ask the people with all the e-mails which job they would rather be doing, the high-status job with continuous demands, and the company BMW and the firm's credit card, or the soul-destroying job with tasks that ask for little use of skills, that are completely determined by others, and, oh yes, that offer little in the way of self-fulfillment, financial rewards, or status enhancement. There are not too many high-status people who would swap their "stressed" place in the boardroom for a place on the production line.

More on that to come.

HEALTH CARE REFORM. A new poll shows strong support for a public option.

TWO CENTS MORE. Here's economist Dean Baker on the same.

CHILD WELFARE. El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia doesn't come out too well in this report.

MEGAN WILLIAMS CASE. There's been another strange turn of events.



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