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Work IS making us ill says official report

Two years of work by over 450 experts has concluded what many men have known for some time: work can damage your health.

The Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project report, from the government's Foresight group, looks at how our mental resources rise and fall throughout life and concludes that the challenges of the next 20 years require a major rethink of workers' mental health.

The report argues that action by government, companies and individuals to boost both mental capital and wellbeing could reap high economic and social benefits in the future.

With work-related absenteeism already costing business around £750m each year, the report recommends more flexible working as one way of maintaining a work-life balance.

One of the report's authors, Professor Cary Cooper, told the BBC that a pressing issue was the number of workers who did not feel able to take time off when they were sick or stressed.

'Presenteeism' - where the individual is at work but not productive - could cost the UK around £900m a year. 'We want more opportunities to request more flexible working arrangements. This is a business issue, it's not a soft issue. People who work flexibly can have more job satisfaction, be healthier and more productive.'

According to the report some 420,000 employees in Britain in 2006 believed they were experiencing depression, anxiety or stress at work.

Call for sickness performance indicators

Mind's Chief Executive Paul Farmer said: 'One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives, but what this groundbreaking report puts into focus is that every single one of us has mental health, good or bad, that we must take care to maintain especially as it fluctuates throughout the course of our lives depending on the challenges we face.

'Foresight's report shows it's possible to change thinking about mental health from something that happens to someone else or something that is shrouded in mystery. It presents us with an opportunity to tackle head on stigma and discrimination. We call on Government and businesses to take on board these recommendations because a mentally healthy society over the next 20 years stands to benefit us all individually, socially and economically.'

Professor Cooper said companies could be required to make public their sickness absence rates and suggested performance indicators for managers.

The report also recommends occupational health experts are linked to GP, which is usually the first port of call for people when they are feeling stressed or depressed.

The report, sponsored by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, was welcomed by the department's minister John Denham. There will be another report in year.

Page created on October 23rd, 2008

Page updated on December 1st, 2009