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22 September 2005
Male Job Status A Big Health Factor
by George Atkinson

Men in prestigious jobs take note, two research papers published recently highlight the life-changing effects of job status. The first study found that men holding high positions within an organization have more offspring than those in other positions within the same organization.

This surprised the researchers as previous studies had shown no relationship between male status and number of offspring. But evolutionary theory predicts that male status should have an influence, as it does in animal species, and has done in primitive human societies. And that's just what the researchers found. The new study, appearing in the journal Ethology, found a strong correlation between the big swinging dicks of the business world and the number of kids they produce.

The researchers say that this indicates that evolutionary forces may still be at work in modern society, a finding that may not only be of relevance for biologists, but also for economists as it might explain why men strive for high and prestigious positions.

But job status can go up or down and another piece of research points to the detrimental health effects that moving down the corporate ladder can create.

The study, in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that downward mobility hits men far harder than women, quadrupling their risk of depression. The participants in the study, from the north of England, were asked to describe their own social class at various times throughout their lives in a bid to track social mobility over the life course.

The researchers found that, by the age of 50, downwardly mobile men were nearly four times as likely to be depressed as downwardly mobile females. And they were around four times as likely to be depressed as men whose social class remained the same. The researchers hypothesize that the disappearance of much of Britain's industrial base may have taken a toll on men's role identity and self esteem.

Both the studies indicate that job status plays a powerful role in the lives of men. Defining themselves by the position they hold can have positive effects for men, but the downside can be debilitating and have a profound effect on their health. "Having robust mental health is just as important as good physical health - the two are often interdependent. Depression can lead to a vicious circle where poor mental health and lack of engagement with society becomes the norm for an individual," said the depression study co-author Mark Pearce, of Newcastle University.

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