Work sick leave due to mental health soars in 2023 and marks a historical record

Work sick leave due to mental health soars in 2023 and marks a historical record

Last year, Spain broke its record for sick leave related to “mental and behavioral disorders” – as cataloged by the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration – with a total of 597,686 temporary disabilities related to mental health. A figure that has not stopped growing after the outbreak of covid-19 and is more than double the figures recorded seven years ago.

As this newspaper has learned after a request for information through the Transparency Portal, the number of temporary dismissals grew by 13.6% in the last twelve months compared to 2022, which was the current historical record to date. “Although we see an increase in these casualties, we think they are underestimated,” denounces Ana García de la Torre, Secretary of Occupational Health of UGT. Far from the figures for temporary disability related to trauma, procedures for “mental and behavioral disorders” are 8.2% of the total processes initiated in 2023 and recorded in the statistics of the ministry led by Elma Saiz.

At a monthly level, last May recorded the highest number of casualties with 58,905. Almost 60,000 procedures in a period of 30 days, well above the peak experienced in one of the most drastic moments in recent history: the beginning of confinement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

To date, March 2020 and the same month of 2022 were the only periods in the entire historical series in which Spain had processed more than 50,000 temporary disabilities related to these diseases. In 2023, half of the year exceeded half a thousand.

Historical record

mental health-related casualties

were processed in Spain last year

In fact, the first half of last year exceeded the total for 2016. By sex, women are the workers who suffer the most temporary disabilities according to data provided by the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration. By age groups, losses among young people have skyrocketed since the pandemic by more than 90% among employees aged 16 to 25, followed by those aged 26 to 35, with an increase of 48%.

Common disease

However, sick leave related to mental health is not an endemic problem in the Spanish labor market. Globally, 12 billion days of work are lost due to anxiety and depression. Almost 4 out of every ten European citizens suffer from a mental disorder and half of employees in the countries of the community club claim to suffer stress in their workplace.

In Spain, according to data from the Ministry of Health, the most common mental problems are anxiety disorders and depressive disorders; The prevalence of anxiety is 6.7% – it affects more than 4 million people – and that of depression is 5%, with more than 2.5 million people diagnosed.

At this time, union organizations warn that this problem is not treated adequately and must be included in the list of occupational diseases. “They are treated as a common illness and are often related to work,” they highlight.

In 2010, the International Labor Organization (ILO) added mental disorders to its list of occupational diseases. However, in Spain it has not yet been carried out despite the fact that in 2023, a report from the Ministry of Labor presented linked this problem to work.

To correct this problem, the unions propose updating the Occupational Risk Prevention law “to adapt it to the new realities of work, introducing evaluations and preventive measures related to mental health and the specific risks of digitalization in the company.” A topic that will be addressed, among others, at the Social Dialogue Table on Occupational Risk Prevention that takes place this Wednesday between employers, social agents and representatives of the Ministry of Labor and Social Economy.

Among the demands of worker representatives is also a reinforcement of mental health surveillance in the work environment by mutual insurance companies. “These problems in medical examinations are solved with a simple questionnaire,” denounces García de la Torre. Like the public health system – with only six psychologists per 100,000 inhabitants, a third of the European average -, mutual societies barely have the resources to treat mental health: “They only have 70 psychologists and 16 psychiatrists,” denounced UGT. last October in the report ‘Mental health and work’.

The protection of mental health is still a pending task in the Spanish labor market, where only 30% have adopted action protocols to prevent this problem.


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