Employment policies and data

Sick on the Job (2011)


 Released December 2011



Mental illness is a growing problem in society and is increasingly affecting productivity and well-being in the workplace, says OECD.

Sick on the Job? Myths and Realities about Mental Health and Work says that one in five workers suffer from a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, and many are struggling to cope.

The report challenges some of the myths around mental health and concludes that policymakers need to look for new solutions. Most people with a mental disorder work, with employment rates of between 55% to 70%, about 10 to 15 percentage points lower than for people without disorders.


Key figures & Data

Figure 1.2   

The prevalence of mental disorders varies with age, gender and level of education          

Figure 1.3  

People with a mental disorder face a considerable employment disadvantage

Figure 1.4  

People with a mental disorder have lower incomes and a much larger poverty risk

Figure 2.4  

Unemployment rates are much higher for people with a mental disorder

Figure 2.16  

Job strain increases significantly the chances of having a mental disorder

Figure 2.19  

Absenteeism and presenteeism both increase sharply with poorer mental health

Figure 2.22  

Severe mental disorders influence sickness absence days more than any other variable

Figure 3.4  

Treatment rates are extremely low among young adults and gradually increase with age

Figure 3.11  

Medication is most frequent in the United Kingdom and psychotherapy in Sweden

Figure 3.14  

The opportunity to seek specialist treatment varies considerably across countries

Figure 4.3  

New disability benefit claims for mental disorders are increasing but not in all cases

Figure 4.5  

Affective and neurotic disorders dominate in mental health diagnoses

Figure 4.12  

Many people with a mental disorder receive unemployment benefit or social assistance

Figure 5.1  

Psychosomatic complaints among children are higher for girls and increase with age

Figure 5.6  

People with mental health problems are more likely to stop full-time education early

Figure 5.8  

By age 20, more youth who had a mental health problem at age 18 have left education



  • 12-13 December 2011: Conference on "Reconciling Mental Health and Work". Presentation by Mr. John Martin, Director of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD. Briefing Sessions: One (Workplace Interventions - Balancing Responsibilities and Supports), Two (The Transition from Education into the Labour Market), Three (Assessment, Identification and Profiling in the Benefit System) and Four (The Employment Responsibility of the Mental Health System).
  • 26-28th April 2010: The follow-up project on “Disability and Work: Challenges for Labour Market Inclusion of People with Mental Illness” was launched with an Expert Meeting at the OECD headquarters in Paris; agenda and issues paper for the meeting are now available.


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