Men who fail to progress up the career ladder are far more likely to suffer psychological distress than women, according to new British research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Dr Paul Tiffin and colleagues from Newcastle University found that although women were twice as likely to be downwardly mobile, they generally avoided the depression found in the post-war generation men studied.
The survey of some 500 50-year old men and women found that although more women than men were clinically depressed at the age of 50 and reported downward social mobility, men who experienced a downward social shift were four times more likely to experience depression than men who improved their social status.
The authors suggested that men gain self-esteem from their careers, while women take more satisfaction from having a family.
Dr Pearce told the BBC: "It's possible that this reaction is typical of this post-war generation, where the man expected to be the main breadwinner of the household and took a significant knock to his self-esteem when he was not able to achieve this.
"Women, on the other hand, perhaps viewed having a successful family life as more important than their careers."