Report on work-related illnesses

Report on work-related illnesses

The ESRI has published new research which identifies 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). In Ireland, MSD and SAD account for 50 per cent and 18 per cent of work-related illnesses respectively.
The report is based on the results from the Quarterly National Household Survey for the years 2002-2013.
MSD and SAD in Ireland

  • Work-related MSD affects different parts of the body that are used for body movement, for example, the skeleton, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
  • Work-related stress is defined by the WHO as “the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope”. Depression and anxiety are distinct psychiatric disorders with defined diagnostic criteria.
  • 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.
  • The research measured the number of days absent for the most recent illness reported by workers in a 12‐month reference period. The average length of absence was 15.9 days for MSD and 17 days for SAD. Both involve longer absences than the average for all other types of work‐related illnesses (12.8 days).
  • The rates of both illnesses, especially MSD, increased during the economic boom years and decreased during the recession (controlling for the composition and size of the work force).

Key Statistics associated with SAD

  • Women have a higher risk of SAD illnesses, with 5.8 per 1,000 female workers experiencing this type of illness compared to 4.0 per 1,000 male workers.
  • 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.
  • Workers in the agriculture, construction and industry sectors have the lowest risk of SAD (less than 3 per 1,000 workers).
  • The self-employed have a lower risk of SAD illnesses than employees.
  • There is a greater risk of SAD illness for those working long weekly hours. Those working over 50 hours are three times more likely to experience SAD than those working less than 30 hours.
  • Shift workers have a greater risk of SAD.
  • New recruits have a higher risk of SAD per month worked.

Key statistics associated with MSD

  • The research found no gender difference for the risk of MSD after factors such as sector and work conditions (e.g. hours) have been accounted for.
  • Workers aged 35 to 64 years have the highest risk of MSD and are 2.5 times more likely to experience such illnesses than workers aged less than 25 years.
  • The risk of MSD is greatest for workers in the construction, agriculture and health services sectors. The risk is lowest for workers in the education sector and in “other services”, which includes finance, information and communications among others.
  • Shift workers and night workers have a greater risk of MSD.
  • New recruits face a greater risk of MSD per month worked compared to more experienced workers.
  • The risk of MSDs was lower in years with a high health and safety inspection rate.

Read the ESRI Press Release in Full
Download the ESRI Report