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Unit 3.4 Mental Health and Cognitive Capacity

The mental health of employees is becoming increasingly important in the field of occupational safety and health. In light of a changing work environment, characterised by a significant increase in psychosocial as well as mental demands and strains, the impact of psychological demands on employees' mental health has become a highly relevant issue. Here, the focus is on both the increasingly sensitive topic of mental disorders in the work environment as well as work-related and individual resources for improving mental health.

In addition, a substantial increase in cognitive demands in the work environment, caused by a variety of reasons including high demands for multitasking, frequent work interruptions, and constant changes in occupational demands, can be observed. The increase in information-intensive work activities has led to a special emphasis on questions regarding cognitive capacity and limits on the human brain’s information processing capacity.

In light of these trends in the work environment, research tasks of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) are targeted at both the impact of work on mental health as well as the consequences of information-intensive work activities on cognitive capacity, mental workload and health.

Consequently, BAuA has focused its research and development on the following priorities:

  • Systematisation of results from international research about the relation between work, mental health and cognitive capacity.
  • Data collection via representative surveys in the context of 'work and mental health'. The collected data include mental health indicators not only for mental disorders but also for positive mental health (e.g. well-being, job satisfaction, resources).
  • Empirical research into the work-related and individual determinants of mental health, ability to work and performance.
  • Research into cognitive capacity and cognitive reserves using psychophysiological methods.
  • Development and application of methods for continuous measurement of mental workload in the work environment.

The results of our research provide evidence-based knowledge, for instance in the form of policy advice. This knowledge can additionally be used for developing complex strategies in the prevention of mental disorders, the promotion of mental health and the strengthening of cognitive competencies. Especially with regard to maintaining and promoting mental health and ability to work, there is a demand for concepts which not only focus on the absence of mental disorders, but also on the resources for mental health and the maintaining of cognitive capacity.


WissD'in Dr Gabriele Freude

Head of Unit 3.4 Mental Health and Cognitive Capacity

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