Forget a flashy car or a big house – all we really want in life is to be respected, according to researchers. After examining 70 years’ worth of studies, they concluded that we crave being valued by others regardless of our gender or culture, even if we might not be aware of it.
The team at the University of California, Berkeley, said having a high social standing makes us healthier in the long-term, claiming the strongest test for their hypothesis was whether low status makes us ill.
Researchers showed those with low status in communities, peer groups or workplaces suffer more from depression and chronic anxiety and cardiovascular disease. In journal Psychological Bulletin, Professor Cameron Anderson said: ‘Whenever you don’t feel valued by others it hurts.’
He and his authors defined status to distinguish it from power and wealth as respect or admiration, voluntary deference by others and social value or prestige. They decided that status was fundamental because it contributed to long-term health, drives our behaviour in achieving goals, is wanted ‘for its own sake’ and it holds true for different cultures and genders.
Anderson, a professor of management at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, said: ‘Not everyone may care about having an impressive job title or a big, fancy house but all human beings desire a high level of social status.
‘I usually study the sexy angle of power and confidence but with this one, it’s about everyone. Everyone cares about status whether they’re aware of it or not. ‘Establishing that desire for status is a fundamental human motive that matters because status differences can be demoralising.
The study found the strongest test of their hypothesis was whether the possession of low status negatively impacts health. Individuals who fall lower on the status hierarchy, or what the authors call the ‘community ladder,’ feel less respected and valued and more ignored by others.
Prof Anderson added: ‘The desire for status can drive all kinds of actions, ranging from aggression and violence, to altruism and generosity, to conservation behaviour that benefits the environment. ‘The more we understand this basic driver, the more we can harness it to guide people’s decisions and actions to more productive paths.’