Two conditions account for 68% of work related illnesses in Ireland

Workers in the education sector have the highest risk of missing days due to stress, anxiety and depression

New research published by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) identifies the workers who are most at risk of developing the two most common types of work-related illness - work-related stress, anxiety and depression (SAD) and work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).

These two illnesses account for a respective 18% and 50% of all work-related illnesses.

Using data spanning 10-years, the analysis found that women, shift workers, and new recruits are more susceptible to these conditions and frequently it reflects an imbalance between the demands required of them by their roles and the level of training, competence or control they feel they have.

In 2013, an estimated 55,000 workers in Ireland suffered from a work-related illness, resulting in the loss of 790,000 days of work.

Work-related MSD affects different parts of the body that are used for body movement, for example, the skeleton, muscles, tendons and ligaments.

The report notes that instances of work related illnesses peaked during the Celtic Tiger and eased during the recession.

Out of every 1,000 female workers 5.8 experience SAD - while the corresponding figure for men is 4 out of every 1,000.

The risk of SAD illness is highest for workers in the education sector, followed by those in health, public administration, transport, and 'other services' which includes finance, information and communications - while workers in construction and agriculture have the lowest risk.

The research found no gender difference for the risk of MSD - risk is greatest for workers in the construction, agriculture and health services sectors. It is also more common among night workers, shift workers, and new recruits.

The ESRI comments that the high level of workers who experience SAD and problems employer have identifying these issues means that more should be done to spread awareness about mental health in the workplace.

It adds that a growing culture of workers clocking long hours is increasing instances of SAD absenteeism.

Self-employed people are more likely to be affected by MSD and that special supports should be put in place to assist them. It also notes that better training and supervision could reduce SAD and MSD among new recruits.

Helen Russell, Associate Research Professor at the ESRI and an author of the report, commented:

"The research findings point to a need for targeted measures to address work-related illnesses, not only to assist workers experiencing difficulties, but also to tackle the issues of lost productivity, and the associated costs for health care and social protection.

"As the rate of work-related illness increased during the boom years, it is especially important to consider implementing such measures as the economic recovery accelerates."