Gambling causes mental illness

Mental illness : All too much

The trend has been evident for a long time in the studies of the various health insurance companies. Now it is officially documented by a government report with long-term observation: In Germany, more and more employees are absent due to mental illness. The resulting absenteeism increases dramatically. Of the 668 million working days that employees missed due to illness in the past year, 107 million were due to mental illnesses such as depression or burnout. Within ten years the number of absent days caused by the psyche has more than doubled.

How big is the problem?

After musculoskeletal disorders (150.4 million days of absence), mental suffering has moved into second place among the reasons for absenteeism, according to the federal government's report on the status of “safety and health at work”. The resulting production losses are estimated at around 12.2 billion euros - this corresponds to 0.4 percent of gross national income. The psyche is now by far the most common cause of premature retirement from working life. Last year, 71,303 people retired as unable to work due to mental illness. That was 43 percent of those who left early. This is followed by cancers with a disability rate of 13.1 percent, musculoskeletal disorders with 12.9 percent and diseases of the circulatory system with 9.3 percent.

Why are more and more workers absent due to mental illness?

For example, because more and more employees have to be available via email, SMS or phone after their working hours. This goes "with a poor health situation of the employees", it says in the government report. Only 34 percent of employees who are expected to be available at all times could really switch off in their free time. For other employees it is 55 percent.

Then there is job insecurity, anger with superiors or colleagues, poor pay. And above all: work intensification. According to a recent DGB study, agitation and time pressure determine the daily work of millions of employees in Germany. 52 percent reported it. Almost every employee complained about requirements that were difficult to reconcile. According to the survey, employees who deal a lot with customers, patients or children are particularly stressed. As central stress factors, they cited tight deadlines, high documentation requirements, too few staff, and expectations from customers that were too high. More than one in three stated that they had to keep back with their own feelings while working. Almost one in five reported conflicts, and one in ten reported condescending treatment. In addition - this is also considered a high stress factor - half of the employees in such professions do not feel adequately paid.

The results of an online survey by Pronova BKK from April this year are even more drastic. Accordingly, nine out of ten employees feel stressed - and every second has the feeling that they are on the verge of burnout. Six out of ten respondents complained of typical burnout symptoms such as persistent exhaustion, internal tension, insomnia, and frequent back pain. The most common reasons given were constant deadline pressure (34 percent), emotional stress from customers or patients (30 percent), overtime and a poor working atmosphere (29 percent each). Constant availability puts one in four under stress.

What about commuting to work?

That also plays a major role. Commuters, for example, are significantly more likely to suffer from mental illness than employees with a short commute, as a study by the Techniker Krankenkasse shows. Their absenteeism due to mental illness would be almost eleven percent higher, and for women by as much as 15 percent. According to the TK study, there were 242 days off for every 100 commuters in 2017 due to mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety disorders. For employees with a short journey, it was only 219 days. As a stress factor, “road traffic has the same significance as constant accessibility via smartphone, Facebook, etc.”, so the résumé.

Who does it hit particularly hard?

Healthcare, social professions and public service workers are most frequently on sick leave. In mining or agriculture there are not even half as many sick days with this diagnosis, according to the absenteeism report of the company health insurance funds. Age also plays a role. While nine out of 100 employees over 50 are on sick leave due to mental illness, there are only six among 20 to 30 year olds. In addition, absenteeism with such a diagnosis is almost twice as long for older people, with an average of six weeks as for younger people.

What role do better diagnosis and the removal of taboos from mental suffering play?

A considerable one. In the opinion of Franz Knieps, chairman of the BKK umbrella organization, the increased numbers are also related to this. Mental disorders are not only recognized more quickly today and treated more often than in the past. Society is also more sensitive to this problem, those affected are less stigmatized and therefore more likely to be registered as sick. However, according to their own statements, more than one in three people with mental health problems still drag themselves to work instead of being written off sick. Experts also say that employees tend to stay at home if they are physically ill.

What should I do?

The trade unions are calling for more attention to be paid to the particular stresses and strains in social and interactive professions. Many companies have "not yet received enough that even modern computer workstations can lead to stress and illness," says the SPD politician Björn Böhning, State Secretary in the Ministry of Labor. The Greens see the government as an obligation. Beate Müller-Gemmeke, parliamentary group spokeswoman for employee rights, is calling for a regulation on how employers and works councils can jointly develop solutions against “any form of stress”. In addition, “we must finally put an end to precarious and insecure employment”. The Scientific Institute of the AOK (WIdO) refers to another aspect, namely the connection between absenteeism and corporate culture. The expert findings are clear: Those who feel comfortable at work, identify with the company's goals and experience that their employer is behind them, are less likely to get sick. In fact, only one in seven employees feels an emotional bond with their company, as a Gallup study from the beginning of 2018 shows. According to this, 14 percent quit internally. And 71 percent only “work according to regulations” in their job.

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