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Job Authority can cause Depressive Symptoms in Women

Update Date: Nov 20, 2014 10:21 AM EST

Job authority affects men and women 's mental health very differently, a new study found.

"Women with job authority -- the ability to hire, fire, and influence pay -- have significantly more symptoms of depression than women without this power," said the lead author of the study, sociologist Tetyana Pudrovska from the University of Texas at Austin. "In contrast, men with job authority have fewer symptoms of depression than men without such power."

For this study, the researchers examined around 1,300 men and 1,500 women who graduated from high schools in Wisconsin. All of the participants were middle-aged.

The team compared the mental health of men and women with or without job authority.

They found that women without job authority had more depressive symptoms than men without job authority. When the team compared the mental health of women and men with job authority, they found that women still had more depressive symptoms than men.

"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," said Pudrovska according to the press release. "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."

Although the researchers did not identify what factors could be contributing to the development of depressive symptoms, they reasoned that women with job authority could be dealing with "interpersonal tension, negative social interactions, negative stereotypes, prejudice, social isolation, as well as resistance from subordinates, colleagues and superiors."

Pudrovska added, "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. 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."

The study, "Gender, Job Authority, and Depression," was published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

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