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:

Infant temperament predicts personality more than 20 years later
Researchers investigating how temperament shapes adult life-course outcomes have found that behavioral inhibition in infancy predicts a reserved, introverted personality at age 26.
State of mind: The end of personality as we know it
In a study published today researchers propose that changing states of mind are holistic in that they exert all-encompassing and coordinated effects simultaneously on our perception, attention, thought, affect, and behavior.
Want to change your personality? It may not be easy to do alone
Most people want to change an aspect of their personality, but left to their own devices, they may not be successful in changing, research shows.
How personality predicts seeing others as sex objects
Several personality traits related to psychopathy -- especially being openly antagonistic -- predict a tendency to view others as merely sex objects, finds a study by psychologists at Emory University.
Scientists say you can change your personality
A review of recent research in personality science points to the possibility that personality traits can change through persistent intervention and major life events.
Personality traits affect retirement spending
How quickly you spend your savings in retirement may have as much or more to do with your personality than whether you have a lot of debt or want to leave an inheritance.
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.
More Personality News and Personality Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

TED Radio Wow-er
School's out, but many kids–and their parents–are still stuck at home. Let's keep learning together. Special guest Guy Raz joins Manoush for an hour packed with TED science lessons for everyone.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.