As many as 41 percent of workers who applied for disability pensions benefits in 2011 complained of depression, panic attacks, or other psychological illnesses, Die Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday, citing new figures from the Deutsche Rentenversicherung (DRV), which operates Germany's state pension system.
That is substantially higher than in 2000, when 24 percent of early retirees had such complaints, and even higher than the 39 percent reported in 2010. Altogether, some 73,200 people went into early retirement because of psychological complaints in 2011.
Women were also disproportionately affected, with 48 percent of female early retirees complaining of psychological damage, compared to 32 percent of males.
Trade unions and opposition politicians have blamed increasing burdens on the job market for the development, and Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she wants to better protect employees.
She said she wants work "hand in hand with employers, unions, and accident insurers to find what programmes, concepts, and concrete rules can effectively protect staff from psychological pressures," she told the paper. "We must learn and act."