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Work and mental health - Results from a representative study of the German workforce

(in German)

In light of significant changes in the working environment, issues concerning the consequences of new kinds of strain on the mental health of employees are of great importance. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health initiated in 2010 a nationwide representative study of the working population - entitled the Study on Mental Health at Work - in cooperation with the Institute of Employment Research and infas Institute for Applied Social Sciences. Between November and June of 2012 a total of 4,511employees subject to social insurance contributions and between the ages of 31 and 60 were interviewed about their employment and working conditions and about their mental health by trained interviewers in personal computer assisted interviews.

The data was collected to enable the identification of work-related factors which promote or endanger the mental health of employees and to provide an opportunity to investigate their effects on work ability and functional capacity.

On the one hand our results show that a majority of employees exhibit a high level of wellbeing (88% of men, 89% of women). On the other hand 10% of men and 11% of women report having a burnout syndrome and 7% of men and 9% of women depressive symptoms.
Moreover, an increase in work demands is associated with an increase in the share of employees with burnout and depressive symptoms. At the same time, wellbeing and job satisfaction is lowered when demands are high. Work-related resources like decision latitude, social support from colleagues and the quality of leadership have a positive impact on mental health. The results indicate that several work-related factors do not have linear relationships with indicators of mental health but rather exhibit an abrupt increase in the percentage of affected employees in the highest category of intensity for a given working condition.

Furthermore the results point towards the specific effects of combinations of psycho-social factors. For example, a lack of resources at work together with high quantitative demands is related to an additional increase in burnout cases. Depressive symptoms as well as burnout are related to limitations in work ability and functional capacity. In this context it should also be noted that employees with burnout and depressive symptoms have thoughts more frequently on a premature departure from the workforce.

Future research needs to deal with issues concerning the impact of work-related factors as well as complex combinations of them on mental health and functional capacity.

Please download the complete report "Work and mental health" (in German only).

Bibliographic information

U. Rose, G. Müller, H. Burr, A. Schulz, G. Freude:
Arbeit und Mentale Gesundheit - Ergebnisse aus einer Repräsentativerhebung der Erwerbstätigen in Deutschland. 
Dortmund: Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin 2016. pages 71, Project number: F 2250, PDF file, DOI: 10.21934/baua:bericht20160805

Further Information

neue-technologien-und-arbeitsformen

Research Project

Project numberF 2250 StatusCompleted Project Development of an empirical basis for work and functional health - sample survey among employees

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