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Fake Smiles May Cause Depression
Status: Medical study
New research by Dr. Dieter Zapf of Frankfurt University suggests that workers who constantly have to pretend to be friendly to customers suffer from higher rates of depression and illness. The Advertiser reports:

Flight attendants, sales personnel and call centre operators are most at risk, say psychologists at Frankfurt University. People in these jobs are more likely to suffer from depression, according to the study released yesterday ahead of publication in consumer magazine Good Advice. "Every time a person is forced to repress his true feelings, there are negative consequences for his health," said Professor Dieter Zapf, a researcher into human emotions.

I'm a little surprised that it was a German professor who did this study, because it's my subjective impression that fake happy workers seem to be more of an American phenomenon than a European one. American waiters, for instance, always want to act as if they're your new best friend, whereas European waiters tend to be a little more formal in how they interact with diners. Though maybe this is changing.
Categories: Health/Medicine, Psychology
Posted by The Curator on Fri Mar 17, 2006
Comments (23)
I guess it didn't occur to Dr. Zapf that people like flight attendants, sales personnel, and call center operators might be getting depressed because they have crummy, high-stress jobs.

I am highly envious of his name, though. From now on, just call me "Dr. Dieter Zapf."
Posted by Big Gary in Heavener, Oklahoma  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Fri Mar 17, 2006  at  04:14 PM
I know that our workplace offers free counseling...

Maybe they knew we'd get depressed. I can attest to it though. Although, I'm less depressed from having to sound peppy all the time (which is really just annoying)...and more depressed about what I have to deal with on the phone...death, injuries...etc. Plus, it's very repetetive. You literally say the same thing over & over again all day long.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Fri Mar 17, 2006  at  11:13 PM
I'm with Big Gary on this one. How could you possibly control this study? Maybe find flight attendants and sales clerks who act as surly as they feel?
Posted by Joe  on  Sat Mar 18, 2006  at  04:32 PM
Every time I make a fake emoticon on the web, it chips away at my soul little by little.

smile

I'm going off to weep uncontrollably over the sham that is my life!!
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Sat Mar 18, 2006  at  04:36 PM
"How could you possibly control this study? Maybe find flight attendants and sales clerks who act as surly as they feel?"

Try the unemployment office for a good source of these. Or, based on my last (and I do mean LAST) experiences with them, Continental Airlines employees.
Posted by Big Gary in Ponder, Texas  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Sat Mar 18, 2006  at  04:50 PM
I only type lol if I actually lol...
Posted by davetolomy  on  Sun Mar 19, 2006  at  01:58 PM
Hmm... I've read reports on studies sugesting that smiling makes you feel better and pulling miserable faces makes you miserable (such as the Eye and I art/science project (links to .pdf file) written up in New Scientist.

I'd agree that the biggest problem is likely to be that all the jobs cited seem to be shitty jobs per se. OTOH, I can easily believe that real fake-smilery could be pretty depressing - though maybe it would not be so bad if you could 'fake' a 'genuine' smile (like the actors in the Eye and I project). Would be difficult to test, though:)
Posted by outeast  on  Mon Mar 20, 2006  at  09:23 AM
Yes, you're absolutely right: "fake happy workers" are definitely more an American phenomenon than a European one. This is because for Europeans, and the Germans above all, fake friendliness goes totally against the grain. Which in turn explains why the study was done by a German professor: now they have PROOF that it's bad.

So I don't think customer service in Europe is gonna change any time soon. Next time some American tourist complains about their surly waiter, the Germans will just reply that being friendly to customers is bad for their health.
Posted by danceny  in  Berlin, Germany  on  Mon Mar 20, 2006  at  09:58 PM
Well, I am one of those fake, happy, smiley call center workers they are talking about and I am currently on meds for depression. Since I am a supervisor, I get the worst of the worst and in may cases it is customer stupidity that causes the problem and the get mad at us due to their idiocy. Example: They want a product exchanged under warranty because they left it on the car bumper and it fell off and broke as they drove down the street. We have to be courteous and respectful no matter how nasty the cust gets. There really are times that I want to say "Your stupid, shut up and go get a life". Sadly, I cannot.
Posted by Lounge Lizard  in  El Paso, Tx  on  Thu Aug 03, 2006  at  04:58 PM
I TOTALLY AGREE! I WORKED AS A RECEPTIONIST WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG AND LATER BECAME A CALL CENTER CUSTOMER SERVICE REP. I LOOKED THE PART THEY WANTED WHEN I WAS A RECEPTIONIST AND I PUT ON THAT BIG HAPPY SMILE AND WAS UPBEAT ALL THE TIME. WHEN I WAS IN THE CALL CENTER I PUT UP WITH ABUSE DAILY. I WAS YELLED AT, CURSED, PEOPLE WOULD CALL DRUNK, PEOPLE WOULD MAKE SEXUAL COMMENTS TO ME, AND MOST OF ALL THEY WERE RUDE, TACTLESS, STUPID PEOPLE THAT WANTED TO UNLEASH THEIR EMOTIONS ON ME, BECAUSE THEIR LIFE WAS BAD. THEY WERE HAVING A BAD DAY SO THEY TRIED TO MAKE OTHERS HAVE ONE TOO AND I COULD NOT DO A DAMN THING ABOUT IT EXCEPT TAKE THE ABUSE TIME AND TIME AGAIN. EVERYDAY ALL DAY! THE CUSTOMERS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT IS A BUNCH OF SHIT WHEN IT COMES TO THESE TYPES OF PEOPLE! I GET SO SICK OF PEOPLE WHINNING ABOUT THEIR PROBLEMS! I WANTED TO TELL THESE PEOPLE TO SHUT THE F*** UP AND I COULDN'T BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE RUDE RIGHT OR YOU WOULD LOSE YOUR JOB RIGHT. I WENT IN TO A DEEP DEPRESSION AND I PERSONALLY HAVE NOT RECOVERED. NOT TO MENTION WE HAVE OUR OWN DAMN PROBLEMS TO FACE EACH DAY.. I HAVE ALOT OF ANGER PROBLEMS AS YOU CAN TELL AND WANT TO ISOLATE MYSELF AT TIMES!. I REMEMBER MY BOSS TOLD ME TO FAKE IT UNTIL I MAKE IT! FAKE WHAT... THAT I DON'T FEEL LIKE STRANGLING THESE PEOPLE ON THE PHONE... KINDA HARD...ACT LIKE YOUR HAPPY WHEN YOUR REALLY NOT... COME ON WHO IN THE HELL ARE YOU? WE ARE TAUGHT TO BE SO DAMN FAKE AND I WAS ONE...LET'S PRETEND WAS WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN..NOT ADULTS...WE ARE IN THE REAL WORLD NOW, WHICH REALLY SUCKS. I AM SEEKING HELP FOR MY DEPRESSION AND HERE TO SAY UNLESS YOU HAVE WORKED IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY YOU WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE SPIT UPON DAILY.

I APOLOGIZE IF I HAVE BEEN TO BLUNT, BUT HEY THAT IS WHERE I AM RIGHT NOW IN MY LIFE AND IT'S ABOUT TIME TO BE REAL FOR ONCE! TAKE CARE smile
Posted by Jodi  in  Tulsa  on  Tue May 08, 2007  at  02:07 AM
Why are you shouting?
Posted by Anti-Jodi  in  Austin  on  Thu Jul 05, 2007  at  06:01 PM
I used to work in an IT department of me and three more developing a web system using php and mysql. There was an unwritten rule that people should always go with the flow and laugh when the rest were laughing. Often to normal things which was not funny at all. This wore me down and I really hate when people are constantly laughing on the phone or whatever. I had a colleague who could not make a single phone call without laughing fakely. Good that there's at least one website which brings about this topic. I wish it would become common sense for everyone that peoples' happiness should come from within, since that's what really makes us feel good. Fake laugh is probably a substitute for an interesting life.
Posted by Janne  in  Sweden  on  Wed Aug 08, 2007  at  11:35 AM
Oh my goodness. That's what I do the most...
NONE of my smiles are real (hardly)
And I'm trying to be nice to people that I don't know.

From now on I won't. I'll be this horrible, stone, boring person that secretely wants to not be there. Because that's my true feelings
Sheeesh...
That's one article that changed MY life.
Posted by wHYdIihATEmYsELF  in  LONDON BABY!  on  Tue Sep 18, 2007  at  11:01 AM
I hate American fake smiles, they are soooo unreal and fake..... why don't you be upset and genuine instead? Don't say "Have a nice day" if you mean "Get Lost", just say "Get The Fuck Out Of Here!".
Posted by Giorgio  in  Italia  on  Fri Jul 11, 2008  at  01:19 AM
That's the beauty of it though. Being able to convey "go fuck yourself" while really saying "have a nice day!" is an art form.
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Fri Jul 11, 2008  at  09:25 AM
Hi all,

I have to concede that there is some truth in the study revelation that fake Smiles may cause depression. When you are not showing what you really felt, that could affect both your health and your mental state as well. This can lead to depression. If you want to know more about depression and its treatments, you can visit http://www.pillwatch.com/theme/depression.html I hav.e found this site to be very useful personally.

Coming back to our topic, I would like to say one more thing. Smiling is a way to show that we like some other's company or you are happy to serve somebody. In some occasions, smiling is customary, like for example, when you are with your friends and somebody says a joke and everybody else smiles. By not smiling on such occasions, you are insulting others actually. This could affect your relationship with others. So, my view is not to smile unnecessarily than completely eliminate fake smiles from one's way of behaving.

Thanks.
Posted by Hari  in  India  on  Thu Nov 27, 2008  at  06:20 AM
Yeah Georgio is right, you Americans got some fucking problems! What's up with fake smiles anyway? Almost in every damn photo you smile so wide that one can almost see your wisdom teeth! Is that Beautiful? No. Do I care that you can afford to buy a ''Hollywood smile''? No at all. In fact it makes me wanna punch you right in your stupid face.
Posted by Turbo Lover  in  Planet Earth  on  Sun Mar 08, 2009  at  11:19 AM
Yeah, i am agree with your saying. i was working with call center outsourcing company their when i used to keep big smile on my face to attend all the customer. really it was very difficult, when i was upset though i have to keep fake smile to make customer happy.
Posted by inbound call center  on  Mon Aug 31, 2009  at  08:30 AM
People Please BE REAL !!!! When YOU smile be HAPPY! When You want to cry! CRY !!!! MAY GOD BLESS YOU AMERICA !!!
Posted by Demyan Lavor  in  America  on  Thu Dec 17, 2009  at  08:33 PM
I've worked for several ears as waiter and haven't notice that fake smiles causes depression.Flight attendants, sales personnel and call center operators get a lot of stress,that's how it may be explained.I wish to everyone to smile properly!P.S if you have depression visit 24drug.com
Posted by Karoline  in  Moldova  on  Mon Dec 21, 2009  at  12:30 PM
haha at anti-jodi
Posted by haha  in  earth  on  Tue Aug 17, 2010  at  12:11 AM
That makes for a great talking point.
I do understand that concept,because as you are fake smiling,what other thoughts are running through your Mind???Depending on thoughts attached to them there is an emotion and feeling about the situation.In my experience the more you do this,the more it imprint's,this pattern ,to the deepest part of the mind,and the only way to change this is better question with in your own self talk,and to change your beliefs,towards it.I is simple what the heart feels the mind will see..at mindmotivations.com,the programs there allow the deepest part of the mind to be accessed and the issues to be resolved,naturally and easily.
Posted by Joe  in  Australia  on  Thu Oct 21, 2010  at  10:14 PM
having to show good humor to a customer doesn't disturb me... sometimes you will get an irate or obnoxious caller and you have to pretend that you are happy and smiley and all, but that's just you being a front for some company. Nothing prevents you from thinking whatever you want in the privacy of your own mind. If you take things people say personally, though, when their frustrations are usually directed at the company or the situation, and not you, that can take a toll. If you can't realize that they are not speaking to you, but to 'the company', then there's no reason that keeping the smile on should hurt you psychologically. And I don't think saying what's really on your mind will keep you the job. What will hurt you more, fake smiles or unemployment?
Posted by trish  on  Thu Jul 21, 2011  at  07:44 PM
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