United Kingdom

Middle management more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety

October 2015


Symptoms of depression and anxiety are more prevalent among staff in middle management than employees above or below them, new research has revealed.

The research, which was carried out by public health experts at New York’s Columbia University who interviewed nearly 22,000 US employees, found that directors and those at board level as well as frontline workers were less likely to report mental health issues than those in the middle of the workplace hierarchy.

Mark Witte, Senior Consultant at Aon Employee Benefits was not surprised by the findings. According to Witte, the findings tie in with Aon’s own analysis carried out on employees in the retail sector which showed that mental health issues amongst middle management tiers (such as regional managers or store management teams) accounted for as much as two thirds of working days lost.

“We can debate as to how much this can be attributed to middle management roles being subject to the twin pressures of financial and corporate accountability from above and people management responsibilities from below, but statistics of this nature certainly give employers food for thought,” he said.

New York Columbia University dubbed the findings the ‘Reggie Perrin effect’ - named after a popular 1970s BBC sitcom about a suburban business man suffering from a mid-life crisis. In particular, it showed that twice the number of managers suffer from anxiety-related issues than their peers.

For example, 18 per cent of supervisors have reported symptoms of depression in comparison to 12 per cent among their teams.

Commenting on the research which is published in the journal Sociology of Health and Illness, researcher Seth Prins said: “We explored how social class might influence depression and anxiety in ways that may be masked or incompletely explained by standard socioeconomic status measures.

“Contradictory class locations are those that embody aspects of both ownership and labour, and using this construct we found patterns of depression and anxiety that are not easily detected or explained with standard approaches.”

Witte added: “Research of this nature reinforces our view that the most evolved employers will be increasingly looking to segment their workforce in an effort to most effectively target their Health & Wellbeing strategy. By aggregating and analysing the information available from their full range of health related benefits, services and datasets employers should be able to assess and quantify risks of this nature not just for specific job roles but also for gender/age-bands, business divisions or geographies”.



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