Work-related mental health issues

In 2022, approximately 60% of the world’s population is working. All workers are entitled to a safe and healthy working environmentbut the work can be presented as potential negative factor for mental health. In all countries, workers, families, businesses and even economies are suffering the adverse consequences that Mental Health has work.

This is the starting point for the new guidelines on mental health developed jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO). The objective of this guide is to call for concrete actions to deal with the growing problems of mental health linked to work activity.

It is estimated that 12 billion working days are lost every year as a consequence of the the Depression and the anxiety. A problem that translates into a cost to the global economy of almost a billion dollars.

The WHO global guidelines on mental health at work recommends a series of actions aimed at addressing the triggers of mental health problems such as excessive workloads, negative behaviors and other factors that generate distress in workers. This is the first time that the WHO has recommended the training of managers to develop their prevention capacity in stressful work environments and thus propose solutions to the workers concerned.

According to the “WHO World Mental Health Report”, the results of which were made public last June, one billion people worldwide were living with a mental disorder in 2019. In this sense, it should be noted that 15% of adults of working age suffer from mental disorders.


The hazardous work environments are at the root of risk factors for mental health. We’re talking about the so-called “psychosocial risks” and they can be related to the content of the work, the schedule, the characteristics of the work environment or the opportunities for projection and economic improvement that this may or may not entail.

15% of working-age adults suffer from a mental disorder

In jobs where, for example, roles are ill-defined, workloads are high, or control over employees is excessive, the risk of exhaustion, anxiety Yes the Depression with negative effects on the mental health of workers, including harmful behaviors such as suicide.

The WHO also warns that psychosocial risks can cause or exacerbate physical health problems. For example, in 2016, an estimated 745,000 people worldwide died of stroke and ischemic attack after working 55 or more hours per week. The report indicates that, although these psychosocial factors can arise in any job, the risk increases in those where the emotional load is higher or where there is greater exposure to potentially traumatic events, as is the case of health professionals.

Jobs where wages are low, unrewarding or precarious also increase the risk of psychosocial problems that compromise the mental health of workers. The WHO warns that more than half of the global workforce works in what it calls “informal economy”that’s to say, there is no regulatory protection of workers’ rightswhich greatly increases the threats to mental and physical health.

Recent transformations in the workplace, such as constant technological development, climate change, globalization and demographic shifts, are changing where and how people work. The pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has also disrupted markets with the expansion of work models like telecommuting. For many workers, these changes have created new psychosocial risks or exacerbated existing ones.


The protect the mental health of workers can and should be approached from all relevant angles. In the case of Governments This means working with employers and employees to develop new labor laws and policies or revise existing ones with the aim of equate mental health with physical health.

In 2016, an estimated 745,000 people worldwide died of stroke and ischemic stroke after working 55 hours or more per week.

This involves ensuring the definition of occupational health from these two domains, as well as including mental disorders in national lists of occupational diseases, in line with the updated ILO List of Occupational Diseases in 2010.

Governments also have an important role to play in protecting the mental health of workers by managing psychosocial risks through occupational health services. It is the responsibility of governments to strengthen prevention services, as well as to oversee and propose measures to prevent the harm caused by psychosocial risks.

From the point of view of employerspsychosocial risks can be mitigated by integration of mental health into occupational health services. Not as an optional extra, but as an essential.

Activities to improve workplace mental health should be prioritized as collective actions and based on sound risk assessment and management. A process for which Employee participation is essential. and their representatives. They must be informed of the measures taken to prevent these risks.

“We need to invest in building a culture of prevention around mental health in the workplace, reshaping the work environment to end stigma and social exclusion, as well as ensuring that employees with mental health issues feel protected and supported”

The WHO stresses the need for a a solid legal framework for the prevention of psychosocial risks. Protection of mental health in the workplace is not enough if it is not supported by mechanisms that ensure compliance with the guidelines.


“It’s time to focus on the detrimental effects that work can have on our mental health,” said WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “An individual’s well-being is reason enough to act, but poor mental health can also have a debilitating impact on a person’s performance and productivity. These new guidelines can help prevent situations and negative work culturesand provide much-needed mental health protection and support to workers.

“As people spend so much of their lives at work, a safe and healthy work environment is essential. We need to invest in building a culture of prevention around mental health in the workplace, reshaping the work environment to end stigma and social exclusion, and ensure that employees with mental health feel protected and supported,” he says. Guy RyderDirector General of the ILO.

The road ahead is long and not without obstacles. The WHO warns that only 35% of countries report having national programs for the promotion and prevention of work-related mental health. Covid-19 increased a 25% problems such as anxiety and depressionwhich revealed how unprepared governments were for the impact of such a health crisis on mental health.

In 2020, governments around the world spent on average barely two percent of health budgets spent on mental health. For low- and middle-income countries, the figure is less than 1%.

Because we all need health…

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