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October 29, 2009

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Being boss can cost you: study

BEING the boss might mean more money and challenging work, but it can also take a toll on physical and mental well-being, according to a Canadian study.

University of Toronto researchers, using data from 1,800 US workers, found the health of people in higher positions is affected by work, they being more likely to report conflicts with co-workers and to say work intruded on their home life.

However the positive aspects of having a power position at work - such as higher status, more pay and greater independence - seemed to cancel out the negative aspects when it came to physical and psychological health.

The findings, reported in the journal Social Science & Medicine, suggest that the pros and cons of authority positions essentially cancel each other out, giving the general impression that job authority has no health effects.

Previous studies have long shown that people in lower-status jobs generally have higher rates of heart disease and other illnesses and die earlier than those in higher-status positions.

For this study, researchers surveyed participants about various aspects of their work life and well-being. Job authority was gauged on whether a person managed other employees and had power over hiring, firing and pay.

Physical health complaints included problems like headaches, body aches, heartburn and fatigue. Psychological complaints included sleep problems, difficulty concentrating and feelings of sadness, worry and anxiety.

Researcher Scott Schieman said conflicts with co-workers or intrusion of work into home life may create chronic stress, chipping away at physical and mental well-being.

"These are key stressors that can tax individuals' capacity to function effectively," Schieman said.


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