Germany: Occupational health strategy focuses on work-related stress

A new phase of the Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy, launched in 2015, concentrates on addressing the risk of psychological stress at work.

The Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (GDA) sets out three goals to be achieved between 2013 and 2018: to improve the organisation of occupational health; to reduce work-related illnesses arising from musculoskeletal disorders; and to better protect workers from psychological strain at work. With regard to the third goal, a new programme called Psyche was launched in 2015. As part of the programme, supervisory officers in the federal states received training on psychological strain in the workplace. Following the training, the officers visited establishments to examine the issue of stress in their workplaces. The GDA is an initiative by the German government, the federal states and the accident insurance institutions.

Stress, psychological strain and the influence of changing work environments on occupational health were widely debated throughout 2015. A survey by the United Services Union (ver.di) in November 2015 highlights that employees feel greater stress at work in recent years (832 KB PDF). Of the surveyed employees, 42% fully agreed that their work-related strain had increased in recent years, while another 28% tended to agree with this statement. In addition, eastern German workers seem to be more affected than their western German colleagues. However, a recent study by the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry found that rising levels of sick leave due to mental or psychological health problems are not so much related to stress at work but to individual dispositions (in German). For example, depression is more often caused by biographical events and personal problems and not work-related stress. The analysis was undertaken on behalf of the Bavarian Employers' Associations for the Metalworking and Electric Industries (bayme vbm) and published in November 2015.

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