Civil servant heart disease risk 'depends on their department'

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Whitehall heart disease risk: Depends on the department
Whitehall heart disease risk: Depends on the department

Climbing the Whitehall promotion ladder could actually decrease the chances of a premature death, according to new research.

Stressed civil servants might have assumed that jobs with more responsibility could be associated with a greater risk of ill health.

But a study in the Economic Journal published today suggests that civil servants in departments with high rates of promotion are 20% less likely to develop heart disease than their counterparts.

Research by academics from the University of Berkeley and UCL looking at the employment histories and health outcomes of 4,700 civil servants led to a clear conclusion: that which government department an individual works in can significantly affect their chances of developing heart disease.


"Differences in promotion rates across departments and cohorts generate plausibly exogenous variation in promotion opportunities," the report authors stated.

They noted that civil servants were in general earning average incomes and received standard healthcare treatment on the NHS, making it probable that their findings were relevant beyond the bounds of Whitehall.

"However, unlike some private employers, the civil service has clearly defined employment grades," they added.

"If the clear delineation of employment grades enhances the effects of promotions on health, then the effects of promotions for the greater population may be smaller than the effects estimated here."

Nevertheless, a growing body of academic research is suggesting there is a clear link between success, status and promotions and health effects.

Oscar winners tend to outlive those who were nominated but failed to win, baseball players in the Hall of Fame tend to outlive those who don't make it and Nobel laureates have more longevity than those they beat to the prize, it has been established.

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