What work gives us
- social contacts and support
- a way of structuring and occupying our time
- physically and mental activity
- an opportunity to develop and use skills
- social status
- a sense of identity and personal achievement
- money and other resources needed for material well-being.
Studies show that work is generally good for health. As
well as a financial reward, it gives many of us self-esteem,
companionship and status.
There is good evidence that being out of work or 'workless' is
bad for your health.
People who are unemployed
- have poorer physical and mental health overall
- consult their GP more
- are more likely to be admitted to hospital
- have higher death rates.
The figures are stark: people who are unemployed for more than
12 weeks are between four and ten times more likely to
suffer from depression and anxiety.
Unemployment is also linked with increased rates of suicide.
People who are ill are also more likely to be unable to work. But,
the consensus is that being 'workless' is the cause, and poor
health is the effect.
Some studies go so far as to conclude that the risk to
health of being out of work, in the longer term, is greater than
the risk of other killer diseases such as heart
Returning to work after a period of illness, including mental
ill-health, helps recovery and is the best way to prevent long-term
sickness. The health status of people of all ages improves when
they move off benefits and into work. This is true for people with
mild or severe mental health problems. It is not surprising then
that the vast majority of people who are out of work, and use
mental health services, want to return to or to start work.
This assumes that your work is safe and satisfying. Some
workplaces are unhealthy, and may have helped to contribute to or
exacerbate mental ill-health in the first place. So returning to
work or starting to work after a period of mental ill-health has to
be the right work, in the right place, with support from
colleagues, carers and health professionals.
'Everyone has a right to work, to free choice
of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to
protection against unemployment.'
Article 23 of the
United Nations Declaration of Human Rights
Health and Work: Changing how we think about
common health problems
Kim Burton and Gordon Waddell, 2007
This leaflet is aimed at helping employees get back to health
and work. It includes some common myths and the realities of the
links between work and health as well as practical advice on
overcoming obstacles to recovery and work.
Building a career of your choice
Waghorn, G., Harris, M., Cleary, C., King, J., and Lloyd, C.
Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing,
This booklet was developed at the Queensland Centre for Mental
Health Research in Australia. It was written for people with severe
mental illness, their friends, carers and health professionals. The
booklet addresses common questions about employment and mental
MIND – for
better mental health
Mind is a mental health charity in England and Wales which aims
to help people take control of their mental health, by providing
high-quality information and advice, and campaigning to promote and
protect good mental health for everyone. For example, MIND run two
telephone help lines:
Infoline provides information on a range of topics and can also
put you in touch with help and support in your area.
- Their legal
advice service provides legal information and general advice
including discrimination/equality and human rights advice relating
to mental health issues.
Working UK – promoting well-being
This website is primarily aimed at health professionals.
However, the leaflets and guidance section of the website contains
lots of information for patients. There are resources which are
specifically for people with different health conditions, including
mental ill-health, who are returning to work.
This website was developed for people with chronic fluctuating
health conditions. Although it is aimed explicitly at people with
Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Parkinsons and
arthritis, many of the resources may be useful for people with
mental health problems.