6th November 2018

Workers face highest rate of mental health problems in 17 years

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Workers in Great Britain are facing the highest rate of stress and poor mental health in 17 years, new figures have shown.

The annual Labour Force Survey’s (LFS) injury and ill health figures highlighted that work-related stress, anxiety or depression cases has increased by 13 per cent. This is compared with 2016-17 data when mental health became the most common work-related illness for the first time, overtaking musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who published the figures, defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.

Work-related stress has increased in recent years, while the rate of MSDs dropped to a low of 1,420 cases per 100,000 workers.

The survey showed the number of working days lost to anxiety, stress and depression increased from 12.5 million in 2016-17 to 15.4 million in 2017-18.

A total of 595,000 workers admitted they experienced a mental health condition in the past 12 months, compared with 562,000 in 2016-17, with women aged between 25-54 experiencing higher levels of work-related stress, anxiety and depression then men.

Those working in nursing and midwifery, teaching and welfare occupations faced significantly higher rates of stress and mental health problems.

According to UNISON, stress can be caused by a number of factors including:

  • long hours and shift work
  • lack of control or insecurity
  • lack of job satisfaction, boredom or isolation
  • fear of violence, bullying or harassment
  • bad relations with other work colleagues
  • problems with the working environment (such as noise, temperature, overcrowding and poor facilities)
  • low pay

By law, employers must ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees by carrying out risk assessments.

If employers focussed on reducing worked-related stress, it would decrease absence levels and improve staff morale and performance.