Accessibility Page Navigation
Style sheets must be enabled to view this page as it was intended.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness
 Work and mental health

Work that is good for health

It is healthy people who make a positive impact on the productivity and effectiveness of most businesses.

'People are our greatest asset'

It's a well known corporate cliché.  However, it is healthy people who make a positive impact on the productivity and effectiveness of most businesses.  What is perhaps less well appreciated is that the relationship between health and work is a symbiotic one: work can play an important role in supporting the health and wellbeing of employees, just as employees support effective and profitable workplaces.   

There is now plenty of compelling evidence that paid or unpaid work is generally good for the mental and physical health and wellbeing of the majority of people.  Returning to or getting into work actually helps people to recover from a period of mental ill-health. 

Conversely people who are unemployed or workless have poorer health than their employed counterparts.  Unemployed people visit their GP more, are more likely to be admitted to hospital and have higher death rates.    

The consensus is that work that is safe and satisfying is generally good for health and well-being.


Links to resources:

Is work good for your health and well-being?
Gordon Waddell  and Kim Burton, 2006
This review collates and evaluates the scientific evidence on the link between work and health.  The review focused on adults of working age and the common health problems that account for two-thirds of sickness absence and long-term incapacity (i.e. mild/moderate mental health, musculoskeletal and cardio-respiratory conditions).

Working for a healthier tomorrow
Dame Carol Black's Review of the health of Britain's working age population, 2008
Chapter 3 looks at the role of the workplace in promoting and maintaining health and well-being.

Mental health and work
Royal College of Psychiatrists, Health, Work and Wellbeing, 2008
This review was commissioned by the cross government Health, Work and Wellbeing Programme.  It focuses on mental ill health because these have a greater impact on people’s ability to work than any other group of health problems.  It includes sections on the effect of work and worklessness on mental health. 

Working our way to better mental health: a framework for action
Department for Work and Pensions, 2009
This cross government strategy is built on the conclusion that there is a positive link between employment and mental health.  It draws on the work of Dame Carol Black, National Director for Health and Work, as well as other academics and organisations.  Research shows that people generally enjoy better mental health when they are in work. In contrast, the longer individuals are absent from or out of work, the more likely they are to experience depression or anxiety. Work can therefore play a vital role in improving everyone’s well-being and mental health.


ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)

The health, work and wellbeing section of the website has links to ACAS publications and guidance.   ACAS stresses that work can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing. Responsibility for health and wellbeing at work belongs to both employers and employees and there are key factors that can determine whether workers will have a positive or negative relationship with work. 


Centre for Mental Health

Employment and mental health

The Centre aims to find practical and effective ways of overcoming the barriers faced by people with mental health problems.  It carries out research, policy work and analysis to improve practice and influence policy in mental health.  The website includes a section on employment and mental health.