According to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences bosses are less likely to be suffering from severe stress, while non-leaders experience 30 percent more stress and anxiety.
The research was a collaboration of experts in psychology, business and public policy from 7 prestigious universities including Harvard and Stanford.
In this largest research project examining leadership stress, 148 senior level officials from within the public sector, including members of the military, provided saliva samples in order that levels of stress hormone cortisol could be established.
Cortisol is linked to the fight or flight response, when an individual is perceives their situation as stressful, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated by cortisol. The effects of this hormone include the triggering of adrenaline release into the blood, increased heart rate, pupil dilation and the inhibition of the digestive and reproductive system.
If an individual’s sympathetic nervous system is hyperactive, such is the case when an individual is suffering from stress, their body can become damaged and subsequently hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and premature aging can all result.
The results of the research were quite surprising, rather than leaders being at risk of suffering from long term health related conditions, their subordinates showed greater signs of stress and anxiety. It was also reported that subordinates exercised less, smoked more, woke up later compared to their leaders.
A second experiment reported that individuals in positions of greatest power and control, rather than feeling pressured and stressed are actually more relaxed and showed fewer symptoms of stress than those with lower levels of influence.
The results therefore suggest that it is the workers who may require greater help managing stress, particularly with techniques that enhance their feelings of control.