Assistant Professor of Sociology Matthew Grace recently published an article titled “Occupational Variation in Burnout Among Medical Staff: Evidence for the Stress of Higher Status” in Social Science & Medicine. The article was co-authored with Jane VanHeuvelen of the University of Minnesota.
Grace said that recent studies document a mental health crisis in the medical profession, with doctors reporting higher rates of depression, burnout, and suicidal ideation compared to the general population. However, he said, this research frequently neglects the mental health of allied health professionals including nurses, nurse practitioners, and hospital technicians.
Drawing upon survey data collected from a variety of healthcare workers employed by a nationally renowned U.S. neonatal intensive care unit, Grace and VanHeuvelen found higher levels of burnout among doctors and nurse practitioners compared to registered nurses and respiratory therapists.
Their analysis showed that these differences are largely explained by workplace features common to high status jobs across other sectors of the economy, including greater work-home conflict, irregular work schedules, and more intensive work pressure.
“Compared to high status workers in other occupations, however, doctors and nurse practitioners lack the schedule flexibility and co-worker support that help to protect the mental health of high status workers in other fields,” Grace said.
He noted that the findings provide further evidence for the “stress of higher status” hypothesis in workplace research on mental health.