Healthcare workers have higher risk of stress, anxiety or depression

Half of work-related illnesses in health and social care sector are caused by these mental health issues, according to safety regulator

Half of work-related illnesses in health and social care sector are caused by these mental health issues, according to safety regulator

Picture: iStock

Stress, anxiety or depression accounted for half of all work-related illness in the health and social work sector, new figures reveal.

Data from workplace safety regulator the Health and Safety Executive recorded that of the 187,000 new or longstanding work-related ill health cases in the health and social work sector, which includes nursing, 49% (92,000) related to stress, anxiety or depression.

This means 2.1% of workers in the health and social work sector reported these specific issues compared with 1.4% of workers in all industries.

The data, which details workplace safety information from 2016-19 in Great Britain, also revealed that:

  • Nurses experienced more than four times the all-industry rate of contact dermatitis.
  • The health and social care sector lost about 4.6 million working days each year due to workplace injury and illness.
  • The sector reported an estimated 60,000 work-related cases of musculoskeletal disorder.

Unavoidable and avoidable stress factors

 Tim George
RCN's Kim Sunley.
Picture: Tim George

RCN national officer Kim Sunley said nurses face unique challenges in their work, such as dealing with death and dying, as well as distressed patients and relatives.

'These are issues people cannot escape or avoid in nursing, and it is important that employers provide support and provision when necessary through counselling and debriefing,’ she said.

Ms Sunley also said employers and the government should do more to address other factors, such as organisational change, poor relationships and excessive workloads.

She added that a 24/7 mental health support line promised to NHS staff should be put in place ‘as a matter of urgency’.

Earlier this year, NHS Digital figures recorded that health service staff in England took 17.7 million days of sick leave between December 2017 and November 2018 and, of these, 4.2 million were recorded as being caused by stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions.

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