An occupational activity has positive effects on most people: It promotes well-being, self-development, self-realization and skills development. Work provides structures, enables social identification, provides the experience of efficiency, approbation and social interactions. But it may very well be the cause of illnesses too.
The modern work environment is characterized by economic globalization, digitalization and rationalization. Employees feel more and more overburdened by their workload. Work is consolidated and accelerated; appointments and pressure to perform predominate, the boundaries between work and leisure time are blurred and the number of inadequate employment contracts is growing. All this increases the risk for a so-called burnout. Burnout is thereby not understood as an illness, but rather as a state of risk. If left untreated, it can lead to mental illnesses like depression, anxiety disorders or dependence on medications. Other physical illnesses, including cardio-vascular diseases, may also be the result.
Mental suffering is the primary source of the burden of disease these days and thus has a considerable impact on the economy and on the politics of health care. Worker absenteeism due to mental illness has continually increased since the end of the 1990s and only a small proportion of those affected are adequately treated.
The goal of the working group is a comprehensive analysis of this issue. The interaction between work and mental illness, or alternatively, mental health, will be examined from different perspectives. From this analysis the working group will derive concrete courses of action for decision makers in the political and social arenas. Among other things, this should make early identification of psychosocial burdens in the workplace and the resulting secondary diseases possible. This shall furthermore strengthen preventive measures, establish suitable therapies and, if necessary, introduce changes in labor law provisions.
Prof. Dr. Peter Falkai ML, Klinik für Psychiatrie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
ML = Mitglied der Leopoldina
Scientific Officer, Department Science - Policy - Society
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