Mental Health

Mental health, sometimes also referred to as psychological health, has many aspects and is conceived in diverse ways.

It is decisive for the individual’s mental health that the demands made on them and the resources they possess should be in balance. If a person is able to manage the demands they face successfully by drawing on the resources at their disposal, this contributes to their mental health. Conversely, a permanent imbalance between demands and resources can result in the impairment or destabilisation of someone’s mental health. Mental health is therefore intimately connected with functioning and workability in important areas of life.

Employees play table soccer
© Fotoagentur Fox

Human-centred work

Human-centred work is an important precondition for mental health. An activity is regarded as human-centred if it does not impair the worker’s physical and mental health, well-being, and performance, is appropriate to their current level of qualification, and allows them to develop their individual potential and competencies (German Ergonomics Society (Gesellschaft für Arbeitswissenschaft, GfA), 1999).

This aspiration is only attainable if the actors have a comprehensive grasp of what is known about mental workloads and are able to build on it to devise practical options for work design.

Mental recovery strategies

Cover of the Brochure "Mental Recovery from Work: Learning to Switch Off"

The starting point for the practical guidance document on mental recovery published by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) is how personal (behavioural) measures can complement work-related (situational) measures. It is intended to help individuals learn mental recovery strategies and is aimed equally at managers, human resources specialists, and employees. Fundamental concepts and the underlying mechanisms of mental recovery are explained and supplemented with recommendations informed by the research done into the topic. Example exercises give the reader chances to try out what they have learned. Mental Recovery from Work: Learning to Switch Off (in German)

Mental health research at BAuA

In the field of mental health, BAuA conducts studies into the factors that influence outcomes, preventive measures, and return-to-work processes after mental crises. A selection of the topics related to mental health that BAuA is currently researching are introduced below.

Longitudinal mental health study

The Study on Mental Health at Work (Studie zur mentalen Gesundheit bei der Arbeit, S-MGA) is a longitudinal project based on a representative sample of employees who pay compulsory social security contributions. In this study, we are not only examining variables connected with work and employment that influence (mental) health and workability/functioning, but also factors that help people stay in employment.

Time pressure, pressure to perform, and information overload

Preventive work design has the aims of protecting and promoting employees’ mental health. The research priorities here include the preventive design of recovery processes and rest breaks, as well as the handling of time pressure, pressure to perform, and information overload.

Appropriate preventive measures

In Germany, organisations have a statutory obligation to take account of the risks caused by mental workloads in their workplace occupational safety and health (OSH) provision and implement suitable risk mitigation measures. Our research contributes to the continuing development of appropriate recommendations for workplace practice.

Cognitive performance

In our neurophysiological studies, we look at cognitive performance and mental strain among workers subject to different work requirements. We make use of innovative developments in medical technology and complex signal processing for our research in this area.

Interventions in mental crises

Apart from this, we study early interventions in mental crises with an emphasis on the structuring of psychosomatic and psychotherapeutic consultations in the workplace. The aim is to prevent mental illnesses among employees or diagnose them at an early stage.

Returning to work after a mental crisis

Mental disorders increase the risk of becoming unemployed and taking early retirement. We are therefore running several projects intended to explore what makes the return-to-work process successful following a mental crisis.

Mental recovery

Work-related (situational) measures (e.g. easing time pressure by altering how work tasks are allocated) can be complemented meaningfully with personal (behavioural) measures (e.g. enhancing individuals’ capacity for recovery).

Seminal publication on mental health

A groundbreaking article published in 2010 discusses concepts of mental health, as well as links between phenomena such as functioning, workability, and mental health that had been looked at in isolation until then.

To the Understanding of Mental Health - an extended perspective (German)

Mental Health in the Working World Focus Programme, 2014-2017

Mental Health in the Working World Project

Topic

The aims of this wide-ranging focus programme were to determine the current state of scientific evidence about working conditions as factors in employees’ mental health and identify starting points for action that would promote human-centred work design.

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Further Information

Research Projects

Project numberF 2564 StatusOngoing Project Psychophysiological investigations for promoting cognitive ­capacities and physical health with short bouts of activity during sedentary work

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Research ongoing

Project numberF 2549 StatusOngoing Project Leader and employee well-being in organisational change

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Research ongoing

Project numberF 2525 StatusOngoing Project Formative qualitative evaluation of an early intervention at the workplace (FRIAA) for employees with common mental disorders

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Research ongoing

Project numberF 2478 StatusOngoing Project Third wave of the longitudinal study of mental health at work (S-MGA III)

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Research ongoing

Project numberF 2408 StatusCompleted Project Work and employment conditions as determinants of work engagement and its association with mental health and work ability

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Research completed

Project numberF 2407 StatusCompleted Project Interaction effects of psychosocial occupational factors on mental health: cross sectional analyses of S-MGA-data and longitudinal analyses of lidA-data

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Research completed

Project numberF 2402 StatusCompleted Project Experimental studies on the development of continuous neuronal mental workload registration for field use

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Research completed

Project numberF 2384 StatusCompleted Project Project bundle: Longitudinal study of mental health at work (S-MGA II) - Project component 1: Preparation of questionnaire and conduction of the second wave of S-MGA II

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Research completed

Project numberF 2460 StatusOngoing Project Project bundle: Longitudinal study of mental health at work (S-MGA II) - Project component 2: Longitudinal associations between working and employment conditions, burnout and depressive symptoms

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Research ongoing

Project numberF 2461 StatusCompleted Project Project bundle: Longitudinal study of mental health at work (S-MGA II) - Project component 3: Longitudinal associations between work and well-being

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Research completed

Project numberF 2462 StatusOngoing Project Project bundle: Longitudinal study of mental health at work (S-MGA II) - Project component 4: Mental health and work participation

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Research ongoing

Project numberF 2318 StatusCompleted Project Depression, burnout and cognitive deficits - studies on the influence of work-related and individual determinants

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Research completed

Project numberF 2312 StatusCompleted Project Psychophysiological investigations on changes of cognitive capacities during working life under consideration of individual cognitive reserves

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Research completed

Project numberF 2283 StatusCompleted Project Effect of psychological stress at the workplace on "Neuroenhancement" - empirical studies on employees

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Research completed

Project numberF 2264 StatusCompleted Project Systematic reviews on the topic "mental health/cognitive capacity in the world of work"

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Research completed

Publications

Search results

Recovery from work stress

Essay 2024

The complete article "Recovery from work stress" is a chapter of the book "An Introduction to Contemporary Work Psychology" …

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We Continue to Recover Through Vacation!

Essay 2024

The complete article can be purchased at the website of the Journal "European Psychologist", Volume 28, Issue 4, pp. 274-287:

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Associations between depressive symptoms and 5-year subsequent work nonparticipation due to long-term sickness absence, unemployment and early retirement in a cohort of 2,413 employees in Germany

Essay 2023

Background: We examined the association of depressive symptoms with subsequent events – and duration thereof – of work …

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Audio-visual induced mental workload: research methodology with disruptive soundscapes and electroencephalography

Essay 2023

Attention is a cognitive function necessary at work. Attention needs to be continuously controlled by the employee to reach …

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Consideration of mental stress in occupational medical practice

Essay 2023

Background: Occupational health physicians have the task of advising and supporting employers in the assessment of working …

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Consideration of psychosocial factors in risk assessment

Cooperation 2023

The German Occupational Safety and Health Act (Arbeitsschutzgesetz) requires employers to design work in such a way that …

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Data documentation of the Scientific Use File of the Study on Mental Health at Work (S-MGA), Waves 1 and 2, Version 2

Report 2023

The "Study on Mental Health at Work" (S-MGA) focuses on the relationship between working and employment conditions, mental …

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Dealing with information overload: a comprehensive review

Essay 2023

Information overload is a problem that is being exacerbated by the ongoing digitalization of the world of work and the growing …

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Dealing with Time Pressure, Pressure to Perform, and Information Overload

baua: Guidance 2023

Many employees will know the feeling: there are only supposed to be eight hours in the working day, but you have a long list of …

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Employees' work breaks and their physical and mental health: Results from a representative German survey

Essay 2023

This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of three characteristics of work break organization, namely skipping work breaks, …

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