Nav: Home

Health determined by social relationships at work

October 03, 2016

Whether you're an engineer, a nurse, or a call center worker, you are likely to spend an average of one third of your day on the job. In a new meta-analysis covering 58 studies and more than 19,000 people across the globe, psychologists have shown that how strongly we identify with the people or organization where we work is associated with better health and lower burnout.

The work appears in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

While many people assume that finding the right job that fits your personality and skills is the key to a healthy work life, this meta-analysis shows that health at work is determined to a large extent by our social relationships in the workplace -- and, more particularly, the social groups we form there.

Previous studies on the relationships between people and their workplaces focus on issues of satisfaction, motivation, and performance in organizations, but much less on health and well-being.

"This study is the first large-scale analysis showing that organizational identification is related to better health," says lead researcher Dr. Niklas Steffens (University of Queensland, Australia). "These results show that both performance and health are enhanced to the extent that workplaces provide people with a sense of 'we' and 'us.'"

Prof. Alex Haslam and Prof. Jolanda Jetten (both University of Queensland), Dr. Sebastian Schuh (China Europe International Business School, China), and Prof. Rolf van Dick (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany) also collaborated on the study. The team reviewed 58 studies covering people in a variety of occupations, from service and health to sales and military work, in 15 countries.

While the type of job was not a significant factor in the link between social identification and health benefits, several factors influenced the relationship.

"Social identification contributes to both psychological and physiological health, but the health benefits are stronger for psychological health," says Steffens.

The positive psychological benefit may stem from the support provided by the work group but also the meaning and purpose that people derive from membership in social groups.

"We are less burnt out and have greater well-being when our team and our organization provide us with a sense of belonging and community -- when it gives us a sense of 'we-ness,'" summarizes Steffens.

The authors also found that the health benefits of identifying with the workplace are strongest when there are similar levels of identification within a group -- that is, when identification is shared. So if you identify strongly with your organization, then you get more health benefits if everyone else identifies strongly with the organization too.

The team was surprised to find that that the more women there were in a sample, the weaker the identification-health relationship.

"This was a finding that we had not predicted and, in the absence of any prior theorizing, we can only guess what gives rise to this effect," says Steffens. "However, one of the reasons may relate to the fact that we know from other research that there are still many workplaces that have somewhat 'masculine' cultures. This could mean that even when female employees identify with their team or organization, they still feel somewhat more marginal within their team or organization."

As part of their work, the researchers have several recommendations for future research.

"One important area where we need to do much more work is making use of this research in applied settings." says Steffens. "In particular, it is important to examine whether health may actually precede changes in performance and what role identification plays in this."

The team also recommends exploring the role of leadership. This is because other findings that emerge from the same program of research indicate that how leaders manage teams and groups has a strong influence on the social identification-health connection. "Leaders play a key role in shaping a sense of group identity in the workplace", Steffens said, "and this is important not only for team performance but also for the mental and physical health of employees."
-end-
Personality and Social Psychology Review (PSPR), published monthly, is an official journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). SPSP promotes scientific research that explores how people think, behave, feel, and interact. The Society is the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world. Follow us on Twitter, @SPSPnews and find us on facebook.com/SPSP.org.

Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Related Personality Articles:

For the first time: A method for measuring animal personality
A study on mice shows animal research may need to take into account the connection between genes, behavior and personality.
Your spending data may reveal aspects of your personality
How you spend your money can signal aspects of your personality, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The sun may have a dual personality, simulations suggest
A deep dive into the sun's interior provides new clues to the forces that govern that star's internal clock.
A personality test for ads
People leave digital footprints online, and this information could helps marketers personalize ads based on individual personality types.
Sex differences in personality traits in Asian elephants
Scientists from the University of Turku, Finland, have found that male and female Asian elephants differ in their personality.
Is our personality affected by the way we look? (Or the way we think we look?)
To what extent is our personality an adaptation to our appearance or even our physique?
Listeners get an idea of the personality of the speaker through his voice
A paper published by Cristina Baus and Albert Costa, UPF researchers at the Center for Cognition and Brain (CBC), in collaboration with researchers from the Université Aix-Marseille and the University of Glasgow, has shown that listeners across languages form very rapid personality impressions from the voice and this is not modulated by the language of the listener, native or foreign.
How a personality trait puts you at risk for cybercrime
Impulse online shopping, downloading music and compulsive email use are all signs of a certain personality trait that make you a target for malware attacks.
Self-perception and reality seem to line-up when it comes to judging our own personality
When it comes to personality, it turns out your peers probably think the same way about you as you do about yourself
Do you have a healthy personality? Researchers think they can tell you
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, have identified a healthy personality prototype in a recent study using a contemporary trait perspective.
More Personality News and Personality Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.