Commuters often suffer from mental health problems

Commuters are overly affected by mental disorders

The constantly growing demands on employees, such as constant accessibility and absolute mobility, often lead to overload. In order to maintain their job or start a new job, working people accept longer and longer commutes to work, frequent changes of residence and overtime. In the long run, this restriction of private life leads to psychological complaints for many commuters. Headaches, feelings of exhaustion, stress, depression and insomnia are typical signs of an occupational overload.

Psychological complaints caused by overtime and long journeys to work "Of course I jump in when things get tight at the weekend," reports commuter Stefan Wertheim from Hanover. The 43-year-old father of the family is a commercial clerk at a shipping company in Hamburg. For him, "jumping in" means not only an additional one-and-a-half to two-hour drive to the workplace in the Hanseatic city, but also less time to spend with the children, wife and friends. “I can only relax on vacation,” says Wertheim. “When I get home around 8:30 pm, I'm so exhausted that I only eat a little and then fall into bed. We are now considering moving to Hamburg. It can't go on like this in the long run. "

Like Stefan Wertheim, many workers in Germany suffer. Due to the constant availability by mobile phone or email, long journeys to work and overtime, working people often feel overwhelmed. In its “Absenteeism Report 2012”, the AOK scientific institute (WIdO) determined that psychological complaints are often the price for the high degree of flexibility of many employees. "Flexibility needs its limits," warned Helmut Schröder, editor of the report and deputy managing director of WIdO, on Thursday in Berlin.

When work and leisure are incompatible, workers suffer from more than twice as many complaints as headaches, exhaustion and depression compared to those with a balanced work-life balance. Those who frequently subordinate their private lives to their work, postpone appointments and work on weekends can often no longer switch off. The consequence can be serious psychological complaints.

40 percent of the workforce are commuters or change their place of residence for the job. Schröder also sees benefits for the health of employees if they can organize their work flexibly in terms of time and space, but this is rarely possible in reality. According to WIdO, more than every third working person frequently received calls or emails outside of their regular working hours or worked overtime within four weeks. One in ten employees take work home and one in eight states that they cannot combine their working hours with their free time. Those affected therefore suffer from mental health problems more than twice as often as the average. According to WIdO, around 40 percent of employees are weekend commuters, have at least one hour's journey to work or have changed their place of residence due to professional requirements. Due to the high degree of flexibility of many working people, unemployment is often avoided or the chances of advancement improved, but at the same time there is an increase in mental complaints such as exhaustion.

This realisation is not new. Several studies have previously highlighted the negative consequences of commuting on the job and have shown a connection between the subordination of private life in favor of job requirements and psychological problems. In June, Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) presented its “Health Report 2011”, according to which people who often change their job or place of residence suffer more from mental disorders than others. A spokeswoman said at the presentation of the evaluation of the patient data of the TK that mobility and flexibility literally got on people's nerves. As a result, the group of people who had to move to another region for work-related reasons between 2009 and 2011 achieved a statistically 4.01 sick days in 2011, almost twice as many absent days than in previous years. Working people who stayed at their place of residence and had their work in their home environment were only missing for 2.11 days. So the result of the TK.

Even more distances for commuters to work in the future According to official statistics from the Bonn Federal Institute for Building, Urban and Spatial Research from 2009, the average distance from the front door to the work place was 17 kilometers. Ten years earlier it was only 14.6 kilometers on average. According to the researchers' forecast, an increase in the average distance to the workplace can be expected in the future. At the edges of the major metropolitan areas such as Frankfurt or Berlin, the distance is even above average.

The coalition is planning to present a strategy for more health prevention in autumn. The Union announced that it would increasingly focus on the subject of burnout. As CDU health expert Willi Zylajew explained, pressure to perform and competition often set the tone in companies. (ag)

Read on:
More common mental illnesses among commuters
Young workers twice as often on sick leave
Back pain is the most common cause of sick leave
More absenteeism due to mental illness
Burnout syndrome becomes a ticking time bomb
Mental illnesses cause high costs

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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