Chris Ruane – 2014 Parliamentary Question to the Department of Health

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Chris Ruane on 2014-06-12.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what comparative assessment he has made of the rates of mental ill health caused by (a) working long hours and (b) being unemployed.

Norman Lamb

Numerous studies, including the Marmot Review into health inequalities in England (published in 2010) draw attention to the impacts of unemployment, and particularly long-term unemployment, on mental health.

Research also demonstrates that work related stress and mental health problems often go together. Work related stress may trigger an existing mental health problem that the person may otherwise have successfully managed.

However, common mental health problems and stress can exist independently. For example, people can have work related stress leading to physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, without experiencing anxiety and depression. They can also have anxiety and depression that is unrelated to stress.

Gainful employment promotes mental well-being. Unfortunately, the workplace can also be the source of nonproductive stress leading to physical and mental health problems, including suicidal thoughts and behaviours and suicide.

A number of studies demonstrate an association between the areas of England worst affected during the recent financial crisis and increased suicide rates. Between 2008 and 2010, there were approximately 800 more suicides among men and 155 more among women than would have been expected based on historical trends. This was supported by a recent review of the international impact of the global economic crisis. A rise in poor health status associated with the recession has also been found not only for the unemployed, but also among people who remain employed.

People come into contact with the welfare system at a time when they may be vulnerable because of unemployment and its associated consequences. The Department for Work and Pensions provides guidance and training for staff to help them identify and support people who are vulnerable, including those who may be at risk of suicide or self-harm.