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Unit 3.4 Mental Health and Cognitive Capacity

Employee mental health is becoming increasingly important in the field of occupational safety and health. In light of the changing nature of the work environment, characterised by a significant increase in psychosocial and cognitive demands, 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, it is important to highlight the substantial increase in cognitive demands in the work environment. This change is due to a variety of reasons, including high demands for multitasking, frequent work interruptions, and constant changes in occupational demands. The increase in information-intensive work activities has led to a special emphasis on questions regarding cognitive capacity and limits on the information processing capacity of the human brain.

In light of these trends in the work environment, research tasks at Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) are targeted at addressing 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 into the associations 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, workability 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 to develop complex strategies relating to the prevention of mental disorders, the promotion of mental health and the strengthening of cognitive competencies. Especially with regard to the maintenance and promotion of mental health and work ability, this calls for a clearer understanding of not only the absence of mental disorders, but also the resources for mental health and the maintenance of cognitive capacity.


WissD'in Dr Gabriele Freude

Head of Unit 3.4 Mental Health and Cognitive Capacity

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