Being "THE MAN" has its benefits, but being healthier isn't necessarily one of them

Inadvertently "Stickin' It to the Man"?

At many companies, executive-level employees enjoy a special health plan that covers 100% of their health care expenses. This can include all co-pays, Lasik surgery, every aspect of Junior's braces, physician-prescribed stays at fat farms and travel and accommodations to see out-of-town medical specialists. This same privilege isn't normally extended to rank-and-file employees, who pay standard co-pays and at least some percentage of the total cost of their health care.

But working stiffs can take heart: THE MAN in the corner office may appear tan, rested and ready to lop the heads of another 10% of the company's workforce, but new research by the University of Toronto shows that he is more likely to be plagued by psychological and physical problems that can offset any health benefits that you would assume result from that "highly compensated" job and its matching Lamborghini health plan.

The study, which involved 1,800 American workers from a variety of occupations and industries, found that those in positions of authority report:

  • Significantly higher levels of interpersonal conflict with others;

  • Are more likely to experience conflicts between work and family life; and

  • Are at increased risk for psychological distress, anger and poor health.
People with "job authority" were defined as those who direct or manage the work of others, or can hire or fire other employees.

The study's findings go to the heart of a seeming paradox in research about job stress: although people in higher status positions enjoy benefits that should translate to better health, they're usually not much healthier than workers without the perks.

"Unfortunately, there are also downsides to job authority that undermine or offset the upsides of having power at work," said the study's lead author, University of Toronto Sociology Professor Scott Schieman. "In most cases, the health costs negate the benefits."

(Not that it's all that relevant to this post, but if you want a laugh and insight into the image at the top of this post, check out the classic Sprint commercial from early 2001, "Dawn of a New Era," when blogs were as new and revolutionary as Twitter was last year.)

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