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Mental illness due to workload: sick leave is increasing

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Mental illness due to workload: sick leave is increasing

You almost don’t want to hear the word anymore: crisis. But crisis is everywhere at the moment, in addition to global crises there are personal ones – many people are overburdened, suffer from – real or perceived – injustice, inflation and rising prices are nibbling on their wallets, and the experiences of the corona pandemic have not been forgotten either. This has an impact: According to the KKH commercial health insurance fund, the psychological stress on working people in Germany increased drastically in the first half of 2023.

This is reflected in the absences, the health insurance company said on Wednesday, citing data on its own insured. Absences due to mental illness have risen to 303 lost days per 100 insured persons – an increase of 85 percent compared to the same period last year. In the recent past there had never been such an increase, the cash register said. In the first half of 2022 there were 164 lost days, in the first six months of 2021 there were still 137. “This development is alarming, because we have almost reached the level of the whole of 2022,” said KKH occupational psychologist Antje Judick.

Because last year, the health insurance company registered 339 days off per 100 insured persons due to depression, adjustment disorders or anxiety disorders. In 2021 and 2020 it was 287 and in the pre-Corona year 2019 around 274 days. For the study, the KKH evaluated the number of calendar days with a medical certificate from its own members who were compulsorily insured and voluntarily insured. According to its own statements, the KKH is one of the largest nationwide statutory health insurance companies with more than 1.6 million insured persons.

More sick leave due to mental illness

The spike in absenteeism isn’t the only alarm signal. There was also an increase in sick leave due to mental illness: According to the KKH, the so-called incapacity rate, i.e. the number of sick leave due to mental illness in relation to the employed insured persons, rose by 32 percent in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period last year – namely from 3, 9 to 5.2 percent.

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“The particularly strong increase in absenteeism suggests that there is an increasing incidence of severe, long-term mental illness,” said Judick. That causes concern – also with a view to the employees who have to cushion the loss of work. They, too, could develop exhaustion-related mental illnesses.

The stress level of the working people is high

A representative Forsa survey commissioned by the health insurance company confirms that the stress level among employees is high. The study found that 90 percent of them felt stressed at least occasionally, and around half of them frequently or very frequently. In May, 1,004 people between the ages of 18 and 70 were surveyed nationwide – including 722 employed people.

Almost 60 percent of those in employment spoke of increasing stress in the past one to two years. In addition to training and work and crises such as climate change and inflation (47 percent each), it is above all high demands on themselves (51 percent) that people find stressful. Constant availability via smartphone (37 percent) and financial worries (24 percent) also cause stress. Almost two-thirds of workers feel exhausted and burned out under stress, and every sixth worker suffers from stress-related anxiety.

Sebastian Eder Published/Updated: , Recommendations: 74 Johannes Pennekamp Published/Updated: , Recommendations: 13 A comment by Sebastian Eder Published/Updated: , Recommendations: 37

Other studies revealed a similar picture: According to a representative survey by the opinion research institute Ipsos on behalf of the insurance group Axa, almost a third of those surveyed described themselves as mentally ill. Around 32 percent stated that they suffer from depression, an anxiety or eating disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or other mental illness. A total of 2,000 people between the ages of 18 and 74 were surveyed online in Germany last fall.

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Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, President of the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology, found the results “not very surprising” at the time. According to a representative study from 2014, around 28 percent of the population in Germany were mentally ill within a year.

Long absences are due to depression or depressive episodes

According to the KKH study, the longest absences of an average of 112 or 71 days in the first half of the year were due to recurring depression and depressive episodes. Most frequently, however, the doctors diagnosed acute stress reactions and adjustment disorders: With a proportion of 41 percent, these not only caused the most psychologically-related sick leave, the incapacity rate also increased the most here – namely by 42 percent.

This shows that more and more people are “under unusual pressure, great strain and constant stress,” explained Judick. Particularly affected, almost like in the pandemic: employees in social professions such as elderly and nursing.

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