People on sick leave more likely to report mental health conditions

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Analysis by Legal & General of research into the Department of Work and Pensions Fit for Work Service has shown that people absent from work because of illness are more likely to report a mental health condition than those at work.

In a survey carried out of Fit for Work Service participants by the DWP it was found that:

  • 73% of respondents who were absent from work reported more than one health condition. Mental health illnesses were the most commonly reported secondary condition.
  • 44% of people who reported that their main absence from work was a musculoskeletal disorder also said that they had a mental health condition.
  • Absentees with a mental health condition were more likely to report a non-health related barrier that was preventing them from returning to work.

The findings echo recent figures by the CIPD which showed that mental and behavioural disorders to be one of the leading causes of absence.

Commenting on the findings Diane Buckley, Managing Director of Legal & General Group Protection said:

“These findings suggest that absentees could be more likely to develop a mental health condition as a result of a long-term absence. This shows just how important it is for employers to have a supportive absence management strategy in place to support employees through their absence, and help them in their return to work.”

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  1. Research by H.J. Søgaard has shown that almost half of all Danes on sick-leave for more than 8 weeks had a common mental disorder when a psychiatric screening interview was performed, but only a quarter reported this to the case manager. That leaves about one in four with an unrecognised mental disorder. Whether it is the primary cause for absence or a consequence of longstanding absence, it is a major problem in the efforts to help employees return to work, when the mental health problems goes unrecognised.
    The same researcher developed a short screening questionnaire that we used in a large, nationwide return to work-project. It proved to be a useful tool for case managers to direct focus on unreported mental health problems and thus refer the sick-listed to health professionals for assistance.

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