But of course, correlation does not imply causality. It could be that healthier people are more likely to get promoted. Or it could be that the same things that cause good health - such as good childhood nutrition - might also contribute to higher cognitive skills and a better chance of promotion.
This new paper by Christopher Boyce and Andrew Oswald sheds light upon this question, by comparing the health of British workers who got promotion to those who didn’t.
And they find only scant evidence that promotion causes better health. There’s no significant difference in self-reported health between workers who got promotion and those who didn’t. Yes, people promoted to manager subsequently visit the doctor less. But this could be a sign that they are pushed for time, rather than that they get healthier - a possibility corroborated by the tendency for them to report higher levels of stress, at least in the private sector.
Perhaps, then, low status, in itself, is not an independent cause of ill-health.
Does it follow that we should not worry about the effect of inequality (pdf) upon health?
Not necessarily. For one thing, this paper looks only at the shorter-run effects of promotion - those that come within three years. Maybe it takes longer than this for better status to improve health.
Nor does the paper show that hierarchical organizations are better for our health than egalitarian ones.