depression at work

depression at work

A high workload and the fear of unemployment are driving more and more employees into depression and being unable to work. One statistic says that in 2012, nearly half of early retirees stopped working because of mental health issues, with depression being the most common cause. Depression and other psychological complaints are also playing an increasingly important role in sick leave: They now make up the second most common diagnosis of all sick leave. Since 2000, the number of days absent due to depression has increased by almost 70 per cent. In 2013, 7.1 per cent of all reported absences were due to depression. Statistically speaking, every employed person was absent one day due to illness.

Depression at work

Although the average annual number of sick leave has been falling since the mid-1990s, the number of mentally-related ill leave is growing. A large proportion of these emotionally-related sick leave is due to depression.

For fear of not being able to keep up with work and even losing their job, many people go to work even when they are in poor health. They don’t take sick leave when they need time and rest to recover. The physical ailments are ignored. The body, which is already ailing, is exposed to permanent stress due to the pressure of time and performance at work. As a result, employees need help concentrating, and the mountain of work grows. This development is another reason to go to the office despite fever and pain, and a vicious cycle arises.

At some point, affected employees can no longer meet the performance requirements and psychological problems are added to the physical complaints. The danger of slipping into depression is now there. Now, at the latest, a sick note is inevitable.


Why does work make you sick?

There are many reasons for the constantly growing number of depressive illnesses. Technologies such as the Internet or mobile communications have changed the scope of work and working hours in recent decades. Today, the individual has many more tasks to accomplish in a much shorter time. Everything has to go faster, and employees only have a little room for relaxation and leisure activities. The rest of the phases necessary for a healthy body are often neglected.

Depressed from working overtime

According to a DGB survey from 2014, almost every fourth German now works at least six hours of overtime per week due to the high workload.

Many cannot switch off after the work is done, even if they are finally at home. Many of the German professionals continue to work even in their free time. Three to four hours of overtime per day increases the risk of coronary artery disease by 60 per cent.


Depressed by permanent availability

In a survey conducted by the Federal Association of German Company Health Insurance Funds (BKK) in 2011, more than 80 per cent of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 65 had the feeling that they had to be available for clients, colleagues and supervisors and were still doing business on their mobile phones after work accessible. This constant stress can make you ill and lead to depressive moods.

What work makes you depressed?

Many employees often feel exhausted and overworked. Many shift and night workers suffer from sleep disorders because their bodies cannot keep up with the shifted daily rhythm. They feel frustrated and can no longer experience positive success in their job but feel fundamentally overwhelmed. Other symptoms such as joylessness, disinterest, sleep disorders and loss of appetite are added. If there are private problems, such as the loss of a friend or family member, partnership conflicts or strokes of fate, the overload can develop into severe depression.

inability to work due to depression

Severe depression can usually only be treated with potent drugs such as antidepressants. Those affected can no longer drive a vehicle or operate machines. They can no longer pursue their profession and are considered unable to work.

If the ability to work is still severely and permanently impaired despite initial treatment of the chronic depression, those affected can apply for retirement. The employee’s respective pension insurance institution decides whether there is an entitlement to a pension.


Recognize mental illness in the workplace.

Eine “Erste Hilfe” kann sein, den Verantwortlichen Sicherheit im Umgang mit der sensiblen Thematik zu geben und im konkreten Fall Mitarbeitern und Mitarbeiterinnen in Krisensituationen zu helfen. Rechtzeitiges Eingreifen hilft, größeren Krisen vorzubeugen. Fehlzeiten können verringert werden und das Know-how der betroffenen Mitarbeiter bleibt im Betrieb. In den Betrieben sollten alle offener mit psychischen Problemen und Störungen umgehen; denn nur Mitarbeitern, die sich trauen, frühzeitig psychische Krisen anzusprechen, kann rechtzeitig und langfristig geholfen werden.

Oft sind es zuerst Kolleginnen und Kollegen, die ein verändertes Verhalten beobachten – manchmal sind dies die Symptome einer psychischen Erkrankung. Diese Anzeichen sollte man nicht ignorieren:

  • der Betroffene wirkt gleichgültig oder abweisend oder gar aggressiv
  • er unterliegt starken Stimmungsschwankungen
  • ist isoliert und verschließt sich
  • er zeigt nachlassende Leistung oder starke Leistungsschwankungen
  • traut sich nichts mehr zu, wirkt allgemein unsicher
  • macht viele Pausen und ist auffallend häufig krank
  • fühlt sich “gemobbt”, persönlich angegriffen oder greift andere an.

If anomalies are noticed, it is essential to approach the person concerned and speak to them about the changed behaviour since early intervention by employees and colleagues can potentially prevent more severe consequences such as job loss. Comments like “Pull yourself together!” are entirely misplaced since depression, anxiety or alcohol addiction are serious illnesses that cannot be overcome with a little effort of will.


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