Workers’ blues on the rise

Stress about work is playing ever greater havoc with the mental health of Germans, with sick days due to depression and angst almost doubling in less than 20 years, according to a study released on Tuesday.

Workers' blues on the rise
Photo: DPA

Psychological complaints were responsible for 11 percent of sick days taken by German workers in 2008, the study by the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists found. That is nearly double the figure from 1990.

Along with better diagnoses by doctors, the growing burden of the modern workplace was overwhelmingly responsible for the increase, said the chamber’s president, Rainer Richter, in Berlin.

The risk of depression increased when workers felt they had no influence over the progress or success of their job and, at the same time, little recognition for their work in the form of pay or job security.

The worst affected were people in the service sector and in particular, people who worked in call centres. Such workers were twice as likely to skip work on mental health grounds than the workforce at large.

Women were on average twice as likely to be affected by workplace-related depression as men.

By comparison, building workers are one third to one half less likely to be absent for mental health reasons than employees in other sectors.

Treating mental illness cost Germany’s health insurers about €4.3 billion in 2004.

But even more damaging for mental health is losing one’s job. According to the annual health report from health insurers, the unemployed are three to four times more likely to suffer depression than people in work. In most cases, the illness was not the cause of the unemployment but rather the result of it, through reduced self-esteem.

But diagnosing mental illness is complex. The eastern states of Germany, despite having higher unemployment, have on average lower rates of diagnosed mental illness – aside from Berlin.

The lowest rate is in Saxony-Anhalt, where the proportion of sick days owing to mental illness were between 22 and 30 percent lower than the national average. This would jibe nicely with the state’s motto “Land der Frühaufsteher” – or the state of early risers.

The national leaders were Hamburg and Berlin which were 50 percent and 25 percent above the national average respectively. A possible reason, Richter said, was that there were more mental health services in the cities.

Richter called on employers – particularly those in the service sector – to offer humane working conditions. Something could be learned from the industrial revolution, he said: then, workplace morale had been boosted on production lines by giving workers are greater say in how the factory floors were run.

He also urged call centre operators to think about how many conflict-fuelled conversations their workers could bear each day.

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Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Germany

It’s that time of year again when many of us will be coughing and blowing our noses. If you're feeling a bit under the weather, here are the German words you'll need and some tips on what to do.

Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Germany

Corona – In German, Covid is most commonly called Corona. Self-isolation and quarantine (Quarantänepflicht) rules currently vary from state to state, but if you test positive for Covid, you’ll generally have to isolate for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10. 

READ ALSO: Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of ‘difficult’ winter

Eine Erkältung – this is the German term for a common cold. You can tell people “I have a cold” by saying either saying: ich habe eine Erkältung or ich bin erkältet.

A cold usually involves eine laufende Nase – a runny nose – so make sure you have a good supply of Taschentücher (pocket tissues) at home.

If you have a verstopfte Nase (blocked nose) you can buy a simple nasal spray (Nasenspray) from your local drugstore. 

But in Germany, because only pharmacies are able to sell medicines, you will need to pay a visit to die Apotheke if you want to get anything stronger.

READ ALSO: Why are medicines in Germany only available in pharmacies?

At the pharmacy, the pharmacist will usually need you to describe your symptoms, by asking you: Welche Symptome haben Sie?

A woman with a cold visits a pharmacy.

A woman with a cold visits a pharmacy. Photo: pa/obs/BPI | Shutterstock / Nestor Rizhniak

If it’s a cold you’re suffering from, you may have Halsschmerzen or Halsweh (sore throat), Kopfschmerzen (headache) or Husten (cough).

For a sore throat, you might be given Halstabletten or Halsbonbon (throat lozenges).

If you’re buying cough medicine you will probably be asked if you have a dry, chesty cough – Reizhusten – or if it is a produktiver Husten (wet, productive cough).

If you have one of these you may need some Hustensaft or Hustensirup (cough medicine). If you have a headache, you may also want to pick up a packet of Ibuprofen.

While selecting your Medikamente (medication), the pharmacist might ask you a couple of questions, such as:

Sind Sie mit diesen Medikamenten vertraut?

Are you familiar with this medication?

Haben Sie irgendwelche Unverträglichkeiten?

Do you have any intolerances?

They will also tell you about any Nebenwirkungen (side effects) the medicine could have.

Die Grippe – if you’ve struck down with a more serious illness, it’s likely to be die Grippe – the flu.

Flu symptoms usually include Fieber (fever), Schüttelfrost (chills), Gliederschmerzen (muscle aches), Schmerzen (aches) and Appetitlosigkeit (loss of appetite). While both Erkältungen and Grippe are very ansteckend (contagious), flu is usually more debilitating and might require a visit to the doctor.

However, as the pandemic is still with us, many German doctors’ surgeries (Arztpraxen) still ask patients to stay away or come in during special hours if they have cold or flu symptoms. 

But if you need a sick note (eine AU-Bescheinigung) and are suffering from mild respiratory diseases, you can get this over the phone, until at least November 30th, 2022.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

If you are really unwell, however, you will need to go to the doctor at some point to get ein Rezept – a prescription. More serious cold and flu-related illnesses (Krankheiten) often involve Entzündungen (inflammations), which are often schmerzhaft (painful) and cause Rötung (redness).

Common inflammations include Nebenhöhlenentzündung (sinusitis), Bronchitis (bronchitis) and Mandelentzündung (tonsillitis).