Research Information

A word from the European Union

“It is imperative for organisations and governments to recognise the workplace as both a major factor in the development of mental and physical health problems and as a platform for the introduction and development of effective preventive measures, utilising the coordinated input of external agencies.  

Investment in occupational safety and health makes a lot of sense. It improves people’s lives by preventing work-related illness and accidents and also has a tangible positive effect on EU economies. It leads to improved business productivity and performance. At macroeconomic level, it contributes to national competitiveness. Different studies prove that the employer will have a return in double for every euro spent on occupational safety and health”. Joint Action on Mental Health and Well-being, 2016

EU Statistics, costs and prevalence of work related stress, psychosocial risks, depression and anxiety in the workplace.

Two of our research sources are the EU Research Review: Calculating the cost of work-related stress and psychosocial risks European Risk Observatory Literature Review 2014 and the World Health Organisation and European Union / EU Mental Health In The Workplace In Europe – Consensus Paper – 2014-2020.  Both these sources have brought together all the research from 1997 to 2012 to give us an overview of how we are doing when it comes to improving health in our workplaces. They set out the costs of work related stress and psychosocial risks in the workplace. We have put together some quotes regarding costs and statistics of stress related illness and psychological risks in the workplace. 

EU-OSHA (2014) reports that “the total cost of mental ill health in Europe is €240 billion/per year of which €136 billion/per year is the cost of reduced productivity including absenteeism and €104 billion/per year is the cost of direct costs such as medical treatment”.

“79 % of European managers are concerned about stress in their workplaces”

“40 % of European managers consider that psychosocial risk is more difficult to manage than ‘traditional’ occupational health and safety (OSH) risks”.

“Less than 30 % of organisations in Europe have procedures for dealing with workplace stress, harassment and third-party violence”.

“The research literature has been consistent in finding that workplace characteristics (company cultures) affect the level of stress and number of health problems experienced by workers”.

“Nearly 28 % of respondent’s, approximately 55.6 million European workers report that their mental well-being had been affected by exposure to psychosocial risks. Too little time and too much work was the most commonly selected main risk factor (23 %).”

 “Reduced performance due to psychosocial problems may cost twice that of absence. The cost of absenteeism and premature mortality for depression in 30 European countries were estimated to be €109 billion in 2010 while costs for all anxiety disorders accounted for a further €88 billion (Olesen et al., 2012)”.

“Another study by Matrix (2013) estimated that the total costs of work-related depression alone in the EU-27 are nearly €620 billion per year”.

“The major impact is suffered by employers due to absenteeism and presenteeism (€270 billion), followed by the economy in terms of lost output (€240 billion), the health care systems due to treatment costs (€60 billion), and the social welfare systems due to disability benefit payments (€40 billion)”.

“In high-income countries, governments are usually responsible for paying the majority of long term sickness and disability benefits for people absent from work because of poor mental health. As the Matrix analysis indicates, there are substantial costs to welfare systems when individuals leave work because of poor mental health”.

“Employers have a legal responsibility to reduce risks to workers’ health and safety stemming from the Framework Directive (89/391/EEC), this includes psychosocial risks. Nevertheless, in many organisations there is an erroneous perception that addressing psychosocial risks is challenging and will incur additional costs when, in fact, the evidence suggests that failure to address these risks can be even more costly for employers, workers and societies in general (Cooper et al. 1996; EU-OSHA, 2004; Bond et al. 2006).”

EU Research 2015-2018: Enforcing EU and Local Government Regulations

In its 2015 report on the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020, “the European Parliament drew the Commission’s attention to the importance of implementation, compliance and enforcement of the occupational safety and health legislation as well as number of increasing or new risks. The report also notably emphasised the need to protect all workers regardless of the size of the employer, type of job or contract”. The European Economic and Social Committee and The Committee of the Regions: Safer and Healthier Work for All – Modernisation of the EU Occupational Safety and Health Legislation and Policy.

In 2017 the EU produced their last paper on this subject stating their position. In this EU COMPASS FOR ACTION ON MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE IN EUROPE – Position Paper They report “The estimates for the proportion of the workforce in Europe that may be living with a mental health problem at any one time range from one in five to two in five (Wittchen et al., 2011, (OECD, 2012) ), with a lifetime risk of at least two in five (OECD, 2012). In the EU-27 it was found that 15% of citizens had sought help for a psychological or emotional problem, with 72% having taken antidepressants.

“This paper considers psychological well-being and not only mental health problems. This means that attention has also to be paid to sub-threshold conditions of poor psychological health and well-being that may not have yet resulted in a diagnosed mental health problem. For example, issues such as stress are particularly important in these considerations since there is abundant evidence that prolonged exposure to unmanageable pressure can result to stress that might, in turn, result in several more severe mental health problems” (WHO, 2010).

“In line with this evidence, the OECD (2012) stresses that while challenges in helping to reintegrate people with severe mental health problems are one important focus of attention, there is a strong argument for more policy emphasis to be placed on addressing common mental disorders and sub-threshold conditions with more emphasis on preventive rather than just reactive strategies. The workplace is ideal for such preventive actions to be put in place since individuals spend at least one third of their lifetime at work”.

In 2018 the ‘The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2018’ published their Management of occupational health and safety in European workplaces – evidence from the Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER-2). This report was about how the EU will be monitoring best practises in OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) and PSR (Psychosocial Risk) management in the future, the following are quotes from this publication.

“It was found that the implementation of good practice was highest in relation to safety management, followed by health risk management and then PSR (Psychosocial Risk) management”.

“It seems that the majority of businesses now have measures in place however, these measures tend to be narrowly focused on safety and on measures of safety performance in their operation, and as a result pay less attention to work-related health issues, which are far more prevalent partly because it is more difficult to measure the latter”.

The majority of European businesses are still not implementing procedures to protect their workers against work-related stress and psychosocial risks in the workplace. This report specifies three reasons why this might be:

  • One is that, as is well documented, because the manifestations of psychosocial risks are among those that are least visible, they are also among the risks that are most challenging to manage and least amenable to arrangements for workplace health and safety.
  • A second is that, because these risks are often a product of wider work organisation, in practice this is itself beyond the remit of OHS systems.
  • A third is that, as qualitative studies have demonstrated, managing psychosocial risks, and especially their consequences, is not always the preserve of health and safety management but often a function of human resource management within organisations. Therefore, ‘the person who knows best about health and safety’ in the establishment may not be fully conversant with all the measures that an organisation takes in relation to psychosocial risk. One further implication of these explanations, of course, is the indication they provide that there is some separation of the management of psychosocial risk from that of health and safety more generally. This may also imply that, in general, the remit of safety management systems does not tend to extend to the root causes of the increasing levels of psychosocial risk faced by workers.”‘Management of occupational health and safety in European workplaces — evidence from the Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER-2).

The Reality in the Netherlands, UK and Ireland 2018

Below is an up to date, 2018 account of the current situations in The Netherlands, UK and Ireland. For our Dutch speakers we have written in Dutch. If any of our English speakers need this information please let us know.

 The Netherlands 2018 

Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek 2016: Acht procent van de Nederlanders van 12 jaar of ouder gaf in 2014 zelf aan een depressie te hebben of in het afgelopen jaar te hebben gehad”

ArboNed 2018: “Hoge werkdruk zorgt voor een verstoord balans. “Als iemand gemotiveerd en met plezier werkt, haalt iemand energie uit zijn werk. Ervaart de werknemer werkstress, bijvoorbeeld door een te hoge werkdruk, dan neemt de kans op verzuim toe door controleverlies en een gebrek aan energiebronnen. In meer dan 70% van de gevallen is psychisch verzuim gerelateerd aan stress op het werk, vaak met langdurig ziekteverzuim als gevolg. Het is daarom uitermate belangrijk om psychische klachten vanwege werkstress vroegtijdig te signaleren. Werkstress voorkomen? Verminderen van werkdruk is niet de oplossing. Wetenschappelijk onderzoek heeft aangewezen dat deze aanpak op het gebied van stressreductie werkt, als een werknemer al psychisch ziek is, maar dat dit niet de oplossing is om werkgerelateerde stressklachten zoals een burn-out te voorkomen.

Aandacht voor stress vanuit Den Haag: aanpak van psychosociale arbeidsbelasting en werkstress

“Vanuit de (huidige) Arbowet is elke werkgever in Nederland verplicht om aandacht te besteden aan psychosociale arbeidsbelasting (PSA), met het doel verzuim door stress op het werk te verminderen én tegen te gaan. De wet benoemt de volgende thema’s, waar de werkgever in zijn preventiebeleid op het gebied van werkstress en ziekteverzuim aandacht aan moet schenken: discriminatie, agressie en geweld, pesten en werkdruk.

“Vanaf 1 juli 2017 is de nieuwe Arbeidsomstandighedenwet (Arbowet) van kracht. Na een overgangsjaar moet u vanaf 1 juli 2018 uw arbobeleid op orde hebben om boetes te voorkomen”

“Met de vernieuwde wet is er meer aandacht voor preventie. Ook versterkt het de betrokkenheid van werkgevers en werknemers, de rol van preventiemedewerker én verbetert het de randvoorwaarden van het handelen van de bedrijfsarts. Daarbij is er meer aandacht voor preventie, beroepsziekten en arbeidsgerelateerde gezondheidsklachten”. 

Ireland  2017 : “In Ireland, the majority of workers in every industrial sector claim to be stressed. According to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions 90% of voluntary sector workers consider their job to be stressful. Teachers (88%) and workers in the health service (82%) also report high levels of stress. Construction workers have the lowest levels of stress at 63%. So basically, no matter what job you do, the likelihood is that it stresses you”.

UK  2017 : UK Government 2017: “1 in 4 people at any one time suffer from mental health problems such as stress related illness, anxiety and depression”. 

Why these facts now?

These current facts emphasise the EU regulations and suggested ‘policing’ for implementing health and safety regulations for work-related stress/stress related illness and psychosocial risks in the workplace. These facts and figures paint a real picture of mental health issues in workplaces throughout Europe and how important it is for businesses to act to reduce the current statistics of stress related illnesses and to do their bit to prevent a further increase of mental health issues in the workplace.

We hope that these facts and figures will get you thinking about what health and wellbeing policies and procedures you have in place for implementing EU and local government health regulations; not only safety regulations in your workplace, and how you are protecting your employees from work related stress, stress related illness and psychosocial risks.

We would be happy to help you evaluate your health and wellbeing policies and procedures and if necessary help you improve them so that you can meet all your legal obligations, prevent and reduce stress related illness and psychosocial risks in your workplace; while retaining your skilled employees and achieving your productivity goals.