The Stress of Social Hierarchy

Being the bottom rung on the social ladder causes enough stress to shorten your life, according to a study of British social servants. Lack of control was the main cause of despair.

Being the bottom rung on the social ladder causes enough stress to shorten your life, according to a study of British social servants. Lack of control was the main cause of despair. "Climbing the social ladder makes us live longer," is a conclusion drawn from the Whitehall studies: an analysis of the health of 28,000 bureaucrats according to their position in the government, from lowly typists to powerful policy makers. "The recurring theme in the self-reports isn’t the sheer amount of stress—it’s the total absence of control. Researchers call it the 'demand-control' model of stress, in which the damage caused by chronic stress depends not just on the demands of the job but on the extent to which we can control our response to those demands."

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