Anxiety, Depression Higher in Those From Middle of Social Hierarchy

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One’s social class may influence their likelihood of developing anxiety or depression, with those in the middle of the social hierarchy having the highest rates.

Seth J. Prins, MPH, a doctoral student in epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and a fellow in the Psychiatry Epidemiology Training Program, and colleagues examined data on 21,859 participants who were full-time workers and took part in the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC).

Participants were then broken down into three class categories: owners, who identified as self-employed and earned greater than $71,500; managers and supervisors, who occupied executive, administrative or managerial positions; and workers, who were defined by various occupation categories in the NESARC including farmers and laborers.

Almost twice the number of supervisors and managers reported they suffered from anxiety compared to workers, the researchers reported in the journal Sociology of Health & Illness. Depression was reported by 18% of supervisors and managers compared to 12% of workers.

Prior research has shown that work stress and job strain are important risk factors in developing depression. Workers with little opportunity for decision-making and greater job demands show higher rates of depressive symptoms.

Anxiety, Depression Higher in Those From Middle of Social Hierarchy
Almost twice the number of supervisors and managers were found to suffer from anxiety than less skilled workers.

Individuals near the middle of the social hierarchy suffer higher rates of depression and anxiety than those at the top or bottom, according to researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Nearly twice the number of supervisors and managers reported they suffered from anxiety compared to workers. Symptoms of depression were reported by 18% of supervisors and managers compared to 12% for workers. Findings are online in the journal Sociology of Health & Illness.

While social disadvantage related to income and educational attainment is associated with a higher risk of most adverse mental health outcomes, these latest findings show that people towards the middle of social hierarchies suffered higher rates of depression and anxiety based on their social class and position of power in the labor market.

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