Being the Boss Tied to Depression Risk for Women, But Not Men
Women in powerful positions may be judged harshly, researcher says
FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Being the boss at work seems to raise the odds for symptoms of depression among women, but not men, a new study finds.
"Women with job authority -- the ability to hire, fire, and influence pay -- have significantly more symptoms of depression than women without this power," lead author Tetyana Pudrovska, an assistant professor in the department of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a news release from the American Sociological Association.
"In contrast, men with job authority have fewer symptoms of depression than men without such power," she added.
The research included more than 1,500 middle-aged women and 1,300 middle-aged men who graduated from high schools in Wisconsin.
"What's striking is that women with job authority in our study are advantaged in terms of most characteristics that are strong predictors of positive mental health," Pudrovska said.
"These women have more education, higher incomes, more prestigious occupations and higher levels of job satisfaction and autonomy than women without job authority. Yet, they have worse mental health than lower-status women," she continued.
Pudrovska offered a possible explanation for the findings.
"Years of social science research suggests that women in authority positions deal with interpersonal tension, negative social interactions, negative stereotypes, prejudice, social isolation, as well as resistance from subordinates, colleagues and superiors," she said.
"Women in authority positions are viewed as lacking the assertiveness and confidence of strong leaders. But when these women display such characteristics, they are judged negatively for being unfeminine. This contributes to chronic stress," Pudrovska said.
On the other hand, male bosses generally have less stress because they don't face the same resistance or negative stereotypes, she suggested.
"Men in positions of authority are consistent with the expected status beliefs, and male leadership is accepted as normative and legitimate. This increases men's power and effectiveness as leaders and diminishes interpersonal conflict," Pudrovska said.
The study findings show the "need to address gender discrimination, hostility and prejudice against women leaders to reduce the psychological costs and increase the psychological rewards of higher-status jobs for women," she concluded.
While this study found an association between authority at work and depression, it wasn't designed to prove that someone's position at work was a cause of depression.
Findings from the study appear in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about women and depression.