Mental health disorders now account for more than half of all cases reported by occupational physicians, making them the most common work-related ill health problem, the Society of Occupational Medicine’s journal Occupational Medicine has said.
Researchers, led by a team at Manchester University, studied data across three surveillance schemes between 2005 and 2012. It is the first time that a study has investigated the incidence of work-related ill health and compared detailed data across Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Musculoskeletal disorders were the second most frequently reported across all three regions. The study also found that asbestos occupational respiratory disease was more common in Great Britain and Northern Ireland than in the Republic of Ireland. This is likely to be because of the more prominent historical use of asbestos in the UK, it concluded.
As a result of this research, in January the society urged employers to do more to tackle mental health problems and invest in workplace health.
Dr Alasdair Emslie, the society president, said: “The workplace is the ideal environment to cost-effectively address a variety of health problems, including supporting those with mental health problems. Early recognition of the signs of stress, anxiety and depression is the crucial first step in dealing with such problems and preventing them from becoming more serious.
“Occupational health specialists have the ability to improve the health of thousands of workers by bringing in policies and wellbeing programmes – a general practitioner can affect a tiny proportion of this number by seeing them one to one for a few minutes each year,” he added.