A great programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning. As part of The Life Scientific series (click the link to download the podcast), Professor Jim Al-Khalili interviewed Sir Michael Marmot.
Michael Marmot was the epidemiologist behind the seminal Whitehall II Study (which you can download here). This research dismantled the myth of executive stress. The research was so powerful because of the wonderfully rich, longitudinal data on British Civil Servants that Marmot and his colleagues were able to analyse.
The research, much-replicated since, showed that far from stress rising as you climbed the career ladder it actually fell and the reason was control. Lower status Civil Servants had lower control and with that lower control came a greater risk of serious illness (notably diabetes and heart disease) and a shorter life span.
Marmot also first identified that most deadly of recipes for stress; high demands and low control, combined with a lack of support. This combination of factors, most often found lower down the pecking order was the one that had by far the highest risk and led to the shortest life spans.
It's a great interview and it's always good to be reminded about the key findings of stress research. Nowadays, Sir Michael is very active in promoting the importance of tackling inequalities and was the author of a major report that was published last year called Fair Society, Healthy Lives. You can download that report here, where you'll also find some excellent information resources and research data on inequalities.
Sir Michael Marmot, a scientific stress management hero of our time.
Business Psychologist, Alan Bradshaw, is a specialist in the fields of stress management and the management of wellbeing at work.