Talking about mental health is still far from being as "normal" as talking about our physical condition. However, there is more understanding that body and mind belong together and that both need to be cared for. As a consequence, illnesses are recognised and treated earlier, better and more frequently.
Especially the last point unfortunately receives even more attention than the topic of psyche itself: The rise in diagnoses of mental illness in health and pension insurance statistics. It leads to the assumption that mental illnesses are on the rise almost explosively, all over the world. Fortunately, this is not the case.
Many studies, including those by the Robert Koch Institute, show that mental illness is not increasing in society (Knieps & Pfaff, 2020, among others). However, diagnoses are increasing and the number of those who are actually mentally ill is approaching. Accordingly, the change in work does not pose a risk to health - however, it does bring with it new or different stress factors, e.g. different work structures and new work equipment.
In principle, work has a positive influence on health and personal development. Beyond securing a livelihood, good work can be a source of meaning in life, self-confidence or satisfaction. In addition, work structures the course of everyday life for large parts of a person's life and enables social contact and recognition (Enste & Ewers, 2014). Numerous professional societies as well as patient organizations, such as the Stiftung Deutsche Depressionshilfe (German Depression Aid Foundation), support the statement that work, for example, supports the recovery from depression and can protect against an illness. However, incorrect stresses at work (such as permanent, high time pressure, constant interruptions to work or conflicts) can contribute to health problems and increase the likelihood of developing mental disorders.
For companies, the mental health of their employees is central. Because in addition to the desire for motivated and satisfied employees, it is clear that mental illness leads to lower performance, accident risks and absenteeism. Therefore, it is also the legal task and goal of employers to reduce hazards due to mental stress: Since 2005, hazardous mental stress factors such as high work pace as well as deadline and performance pressure continue to decrease. In a European comparison, mental demands are consistently lower than the EU average. A large proportion of employees in Germany (87%) also always or usually feel that they are doing meaningful work (Eurofound, 2015).
The social partners are also involved in the Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (GDA), which publishes practical tips and implementation recommendations on, among other things, mental stress factors at work. They are also active in the Verwaltungs-Berufsgenossenschaft's project "Mitdenken 4.0" (Thinking 4.0), where they develop information and assistance, e.g. on home office and accessibility. In addition, the BDA facilitates networks and platforms in which employers (associations) regularly exchange views on issues of mental health and good work design and maintain contact with researchers and experts.
Unemployment is associated with significantly higher absenteeism due to mental disorders compared to employment. Unemployed people receiving unemployment benefit I have on average around eight times the number of days of absence for mental disorders of employees. Source: BKK Health Report 2019: Mental health and work.