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Mental Health and Cognitive Capacity

Gaining a better understanding of the influence of work

Mental health and cognitive performance are central to modern occupational safety and health. Until recently, little has been known about how mental disorders can be prevented and how mental health can be promoted. You can find out more about this here.

Our world of work is changing all the time. These changes are being accompanied by considerable psychosocial and cognitive demands. This causes mental strain among employees, and affects their mental health. In our research, we focus not only on the negative indicators of mental health, such as burnout and depressive symptoms, but also on positive indicators, such as well-being.

Negative indicators of mental health

Burnout, depressive symptoms and impairments to cognitive performance in employees are often the cause of high sickness levels and a premature departure from working life. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) is conducting research on the influence that work has on negative indicators of mental health in various projects.

Positive indicators of mental health

If work is to be designed to be conducive to health, this presupposes knowledge of the ways with which health can be maintained. Through our research, we want to acquire more knowledge about the resources at work that can maintain and promote well-being and engagement at work, as well as workability and employability.

Cognitive capacity and work

An increasing trend towards information-intensive activities can be observed in the current world of work. This is being accompanied by increasing demands on the cognitive performance of employees. In this respect, BAuA is researching, for example, whether multitasking exceeds the capacity of the brain, how the "physiological costs" of information-intensive work can best be assessed, and which protective factors have a positive effect on cognitive skills.

Mental workload

In the work process, employees' cognitive performances do not provide any information on the degree of mental work load that they are faced with. BAuA records mental workload continuously in its research. This procedure also allows for the identification of the detrimental consequences of mental workload. We apply innovative developments from the world of medical engineering and complex signal analysis to our research in this field.

Research focuses

The following subjects form the focus of BAuA's research:

  • cause-effect relationships between work and burnout, depressive symptoms and impairments to cognitive performance,
  • associations between mental health, workability and functional capacity as well as labour participation,
  • associations between work and the positive characteristics of mental health,
  • research into cognitive performance and cognitive reserves on the basis of psychophysiological methods,
  • development and application of methods for continuously measuring the mental workload in the working environment.