Symptoms of depression become more prevalent for women as they obtain job authority but less prevalent for men, a new study from the University of Texas at Austin suggests.
Researchers looked at 1,300 middle-aged men and 1,500 middle-aged women for the study, “Gender, Job Authority and Depression,” which appears in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Women with the ability to affect pay and fire and hire others had more symptoms of depression than women without such authority. Men with similar authority at work had fewer symptoms of depression than those without, the study reports.
“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 sociologist Tetyana Pudrovska. “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.”
One explanation is that women face more stressors at work when in positions of power because they are faced with overcoming more stereotypes and resistance to their leadership. Men, on the other hand, don’t appear to face such obstacles.
“Men in positions of authority are consistent with the expected status beliefs, and male leadership is accepted as normative and legitimate,” Pudrovska said. “This increases men’s power and effectiveness as leaders and diminishes interpersonal conflict.”