Every year hundreds of thousands of employees in Germany take early retirement as a result of work-related stress. Burnout, depression and anxiety are the most common reasons for stopping work ahead of time, a new study shows.
The study by the German Pension Insurance Union (DGB) showed that last year 66,441 employees took early retirement, 732 more than the previous year and over 19,000 more than in 2005.
"What's especially dramatic about this is the average age of those affected," said Susanne Weinbrenner, responsible for social medicine at DGB.
Those leaving work early due to psychological problems are on average around 49, she said. Those taking early retirement because of other physical illnesses are around 53 to 56 years old.
"There are many causes," said DGB social policy expert Ingo Nürnberger. "But working hours, working conditions and the behaviour of management in businesses are central."
Stress is also caused by pressure to constantly be in touch with colleagues, as well as job insecurity. Changes to modern working conditions, including commuting long distances, long hours and working from home are also to blame for the increase in early retirement.
"The subject of employment protection is taking on a completely new meaning," said Nürnberger and called on the government to push through its proposed anti-stress law as soon as possible. "Companies must be monitored more closely and receive better advice."
Those affected by workplace stress must be able to feel they can seek help earlier and find it quicker, said Norbert Breutmann, employment researcher at the Federal Society of German Employer Associations.
"We lose a lot of people who would otherwise be fit for work who we need as employees because they do not get treatment or they get it too late," said Breutmann. "Often it's years before the trouble is noticed."