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Bosses Who Are Men View Employees’ Depression More Negatively Than Women Bosses: Study

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Jan 26, 2021

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Image Credit: Mad Men

There is a gender difference in employers’ perception of mental health: In a new study, bosses who were men were more likely to express negative attitudes towards employees’ depression than women bosses.

The researchers posed 12 statements to managers, who agreed or disagreed with each on a six-point scale. Not only did the results suggest that the “tendency to actively alienate and discriminate employees with depression” was higher among men, they also suggested women supervisors were more open to making “temporary changes to the job to help a depressed staff member to recover.”

“We were surprised that the differences between female and male managers persisted even after we’d controlled, in our statistical analyses, for other factors like the managers’ training, the type of workplace they were at, how long they’d been managers, and whether they had experience of co-workers with depression,” study author Monica Bertilsson, Ph.D., lecturer at the University of Gothenburg’s Institute of Medicine, said in a statement.

The researchers say their findings reflect a host of social factors, including, perhaps, that women are conditioned to be more empathetic than men. Moreover, “attitudes that depression is a female ailment might even add to the negative attitudes among men,” the study notes.


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The World Health Organization estimate that depression will be the second leading cause of world disability by 2020 and the largest contributor to disease burden by 2030. And amid the Covid19 pandemic, the United Nations has already warned of a looming mental health crisis. At this juncture — especially given that depression can affect an individual’s productivity at work — fostering a workplace ecosystem supportive of individuals’ mental health becomes critical.

Published in the journal BMC Public Health, the study analyzed the perspectives of 2,663 individuals in managerial positions across Sweden — of whom 1,762 were men and 901 were women. In their bid to investigate whether gender differences existed in the attitudes of managers towards their employees’ mental health concerns, the researchers chose to focus on the managers’ self-reported gender, rather than sex, noting: “… the dichotomy of sex differences [is] inadequate to represent the reality of human life, and diversity within the gender categories.”

The researchers did point out an important limitation of the study: It was an an attitude survey, which means whether the attitudes do, or will, translate into action wasn’t explored.

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Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an associate editor with The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, and a painter by shaukh. She has her own podcast called #DateNightsWithD on Spotify. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.

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