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Researchers find promotion is bad for mental health and stops you visiting the doctor

New research by economics and psychology researchers at the University of Warwick has found that promotion on average produces 10% more mental strain and gives up to 20% less time to visit the Doctors.

In a research paper entitled “Do People Become Healthier after Being Promoted” Chris Boyce and Professor Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick 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.  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.

What they did find, however, was significantly greater mental strain.  After a job promotion, there was on average a 10% 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% fall in their visits to a Doctor following their promotion.  On first sight this 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.”

The research was presented at the Royal Economic Society’s conference in April 2009.  The research paper can be found at:

http://ftp.iza.org/dp3894.pdf

For further information please contact:

Chris Boyce, University of Warwick
07736930695

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager
Communications Office, University House,
University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 8UW, United Kingdom  
email: p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)24 76 523708  Mobile/Cell:  +44 (0)7767 655860
Twitter:   @PeterJDunn

9th April 2009