Stress at work: Differential experiences of high versus low SES workers

Sarah Damaske, Matthew J. Zawadzki, Joshua M. Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This paper asks whether workers with higher socioeconomic status (SES) experience different levels of stress at work than workers with lower SES and, if so, what might explain these differences. We collected innovative assessments of immediate objective and subjective measures of stress at multiple time points across consecutive days from 122 employed men and women. We find that in comparison to higher SES individuals, those with lower SES reported greater happiness at work, less self-reported stress, and less perceived stress; cortisol, a biological marker of stress, was unrelated to SES. Worker's momentary perceptions of the workplace were predicted by SES, with higher SES individuals more commonly reporting feeling unable to meet work demands, fewer work resources, and less positive work appraisals. In turn, perceptions of the workplace had a generally consistent and robust effect on positive mood, subjective stress, and cortisol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-133
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - May 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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