Unfair wages make you sick

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Unfair wages make people sick

If you are paid unequally and unfairly, you have a higher risk of developing diseases such as heart attack, high blood pressure or depression. This was the result of a scientific study by the researcher Prof. Dr. Armin Falk and Prof. Johannes Siegrist. Because subjectively felt injustice puts workers in permanent stress and stress is known to promote the risk of illness.

Feeling injustice puts workers under stress Feeling and experiencing injustice increases the risk of illness for workers. Scientists were able to prove this in an experiment for the first time. The result is heart disease, depression and high blood pressure. The more inappropriately a subject was treated in the experimental setup, the higher the risk of developing a serious illness. Those who are paid and treated unfairly for their employment will also experience a higher risk of illness, explained the study director Armin Falk (science economist) and the Düsseldorf medical sociologist Johannes Siegrist. "People who find their payment unfair quickly get stressed out," explains Falk. "In addition, they are more likely to suffer from heart diseases, high blood pressure and depression," the summary concluded.

Both researchers investigated emotions and heart rates of people who were obviously treated unfairly. In addition, the data from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) were evaluated. SOEP is a representative and repetitive survey of around 12,000 households (around 20,000 people) in Germany. Since 1984, the participants have been regularly asked about their condition, income and health once a year. The same people and households are always interviewed. The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin has been commissioned to collect the data.

One group works, the other gets more money In the scientific experiment, the scientists divided a group of 80 students into 12-person teams. The groups consisted of workers and bosses. The employee groups got sheets with zeros and ones. The workers had to count the zeros for exactly 25 minutes. The executive teams were allowed to rest and spend the time doing nothing. The more the workers counted zeros, the more money the entire team could make. When the work was over, the bosses appeared. Their job was to split up the money earned. There was no requirement for this. In most cases, the employees were given less money than they expected. This subjectively experienced injustice put most workers under stress. This was measurable by checking the heart rate. The less wages the workers received, the more the heart rate varied, and the higher the stress.

Permanent stress puts a strain on heart rate variability
Heart rate variability shows how much the length fluctuates between heartbeat intervals. A healthy organism continuously adapts the heartbeat rate to requirements. As is well known, mental and physical stress increase heart rate. When the load subsides, the faster heartbeat usually subsides. This shows a higher adaptability to loads in a greater variability of the heart rate. However, if you are exposed to chronic stress, there is constantly higher tension in the cardiovascular system. Accordingly, the vegetative regulation of the organism and thus the adaptability of the body is reduced. The long-term consequences are cardiovascular diseases or manifested depression. "If the feeling of injustice affects the variance of the heart rate in the long run, it can have a negative impact on health," explains Falk. If the heart rate is reduced, this can be an early warning of an impending heart disease a deep-seated feeling of justice hurts, "says Siegrist. At first, you don't grasp the violation in a rational way, but very definitely on an emotional level.

The theses from the experiment were confirmed by the socio-economic panel data. Those who describe their own income as unfair and bad also assess their own physical condition and health as bad. In addition, it can be demonstrated from the evaluations that poorly paid people overall suffered more from cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks, high blood pressure and depression. (sb)

About the study directors: Prof. Johannes Siegrist is a medical sociologist, university lecturer and director of the postgraduate program in Public Health at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. Armin Falk is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Economics and Neuroscience and the Laboratory for Experimental Economic Research at the University of Bonn.

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Picture: Günter Havlena / pixelio.de

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