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Health at work Insurer reports sharp increase in work-related illnesses

Tests on a patient in Santa Maria, canton Graubünden,

Tests on a patient in Santa Maria, canton Graubünden, to determine why he suffered a breakdown


The number of work-related illnesses such as stress and burnout have increased sharply in recent years in Switzerland, according to a report by the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper. 

Using previously unpublished statistics from the health insurer Swica, the Sunday newspaper reported that the number of cases of work-related illnesses had increased by 20% over the past five years. The number of cases of depression and other mental health issues had increased by 35%.

"We are observing this development with concern," Swica director Roger Ritler told NZZ am Sonntag. "We are particularly concerned about the increasing spread of mental illness."

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The number of cases of rheumatism and chronic pain, which often have psychological causes, had increased by 30%, Swica found. Meanwhile, cases of heart-related diseases, viruses or cancers remained stable over this period.

Swica is the largest provider of daily sickness benefit insurance in Switzerland, representing around 30,000 affiliated companies and 600,000 employees.

Previous data on stress-related illnesses at work has typically come from employee interviews. A survey carried out by Health Promotion Switzerland, published in January 2018 found that one quarter of Swiss workers feel stressed at work. The “Job Stress Index”, carried out together with the University of Bern and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, showed stress levels at work rising from 24.8% in 2014 to 25.4% in 2016. 

Another recent study – the Good Work Barometer commissioned for the Swiss Employers’ Association Travail Suisse – detected higher levels of stress in the workplace: 41% felt they were often stressed or very stressed at work. 

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