08:33 GMT25 May 2020
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    Stress has become the most common cause of sick leave in Sweden, affecting women in particular, a new report from the trade union Vision shows.

    An increasing number of Swedes are taking sick leaves due to stress at work, according to a new survey by the trade union Vision. The 'casualty rate' is reported to be highest among social workers, psychologists and counselors.

    Stockholm metro train on a metro bridge.
    © Sputnik / Vladimir Presnya
    Job-related stress is becoming a serious health hazard, says Vision. In a recent report by the trade union, a clear pattern has emerged: stress has become the most common cause for employees to ask for sick leave. The amount of stress-related sick leaves is growing at a staggering rate: in 2012 and 2014 the number of reported cases skyrocketed 70 percent, with an unclear number of unreported cases yet to be discovered.

    Remarkably, women are the ones who suffer more from burnout. Since 2010, the number of reported sick leaves per thousand employees has almost doubled. The professions most affected by job-related stress happed to be dominated by women: social workers, aid analysts, social instructors and life coaches.

    "A majority of these occupations are in the public sector, making stress-related illness a major threat to the quality of our welfare," says Vision's report.

    "What these trades have in common is that they all require higher education and involve a lot of contact with other people. It's not that women are less able to handle stress; even men suffer greatly from stress when they work in female-dominated professions," says Veronica Magnusson of Vision.

    Magnusson argues that there is a clear link between the increasing number of stress-related sick leaves and the working conditions of today. It is common knowledge that welfare workers have a huge workload and high job demands, as well as little opportunity to influence their employers, she says.

    Today, March 31, new rules on the psychosocial work environment come into force in Sweden. The aim is to clarifying the employer's responsibility, which can be important to prevent job stress, explains Vision.

    Peje Bengtsson, a senior analyst at the Social Insurance Agency, points out that the upsurge in stress-related illnesses is not exclusively limited to certain parts of the labor market, such as the public sector. "The prevalence of psychological disorders is generally increasing among workers," he pointed out.

    "One of the most important steps, as we see it, is to develop support measures for the early prevention of risks. Mental exhaustion does not happen overnight but it slowly piles up until the situation becomes unbearable. We also know that it is very difficult for people to be able to come back if it is detected too late," says Peje Bengtsson as quoted by Dagens Nyheter.

    Calculations from the National Association Hjärnkoll indicate that a single stress related sick leave costs an employer at least 150,000 SEK (roughly 20,000 USD) per employee. A longer absence from work due to fatigue and exhaustion, however, can cost the employer at least 500,000 SEK (roughly 60,000 USD).

    Recent statistics from the Social Insurance Agency show that the total number of sick leaves rose by 8 percent to 194,174 cases between December 2014 and December 2015, whereas the number of sick leaves due to stress and fatigue also rose by 16 percent to 82,642 cases.


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