Mental illness is on the rise

Wherever people work, there are mental illnesses

Every year the AOK Scientific Institute (WIdO) evaluates employee absenteeism. Helmut Schröder, Deputy Managing Director, sheds light on the current analysis in the specialist journal »Der Personalrat« 10/19.

In recent years, absenteeism due to psychological stress has been very pronounced. And this time?

Overall, the sickness rate among the almost 14 million AOK members rose by 0.2 percentage points to 5.5 percent in 2018. Above all, the strong wave of colds at the beginning of 2018 played a role here. But mental illnesses have also increased the number of days absent, by 2.7 percent compared to the previous year. Incidentally, mental illnesses lead to significantly longer downtimes in the event of illness. At 26.3 days per case, the duration is more than twice as high as the average.

What are the reasons for that?

Large studies in Germany show that there is no general increase in mental disorders in Germany. One reason for the increase is that the former stigmatization of mental illness is less evident today. There is an increasing willingness on the part of patients to openly address mental health problems. In addition, doctors are now better trained to identify mental illnesses. Another reason is that Germany is changing more and more from a production to a service society, in which higher demands are made on mental performance. Where there is more frequent mental overload, there are also more mental illnesses as a result. In addition, there is possibly also the stress of options in the living environment. The pluralization of family forms and the pressure to perform through consumption can also represent psychological stress.

Why are public administration employees absent due to illness?

Employees from the public administration have a comparatively high sickness rate with an average of 24.4 days of absence. The average of all AOK members is only 19.9 days absent. Public administration employees are often absent due to respiratory and mental illnesses. They also have a higher average age and the proportion of women is above average. Both are factors associated with higher sickness rates.

Are clinical pictures on the rise?

In the last ten years there have been frequent waves of colds, which have had a correspondingly strong influence on sick leave. And as I said, mental illnesses are also on the rise. Our data shows one thing very clearly: the causes of absenteeism differ considerably according to the occupational branches. Professions in which people work, in particular, are more prone to mental illness. This includes, for example, care for the elderly, but also work in the call center. In contrast, jobs in waste disposal and in industrial foundries are primarily affected by musculoskeletal disorders. Nothing about that has changed in recent years.

© (mst)