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21 Jan, 2024 19:05

Mental health ‘sick days’ increase in EU state

Finland paid out €900 million to workers who took sick leave in 2023, government data has shown
Mental health ‘sick days’ increase in EU state

More than 100,000 people in Finland received extended sick leave from their employers due to mental health concerns in 2023, according to the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela). The government agency said in a press release that it was the most common reason for illness-related work absences last year.

Mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression have become the single most common reason for illness-related absences, Kela said, adding that its data showed an upward trend since 2016 – which includes a 3% rise in mental health work absences in 2023 compared the year prior.

“If we want to change the trend,” Kela research head Jenni Blomgren said, “it is important that we intervene in working conditions and social structures that add to people’s mental load.”

Blomgren stated that Kela’s analysis also showed that almost half of the cases involved people who had been diagnosed with anxiety, and noted that the biggest increase in such disorders were seen in people younger than 35.

Kela, which offers compensation for long-term work absences after at least ten days of sick leave, said that it paid out a total of about 15 million sick leave days in 2023 – a sum total of around €900 million ($980 million).

The government agency said that, while a higher total compensatory sum was paid out last year, there were almost 10,000 fewer recipients than in 2022, a downturn that Kela attributes to the decline of Covid-19.

In 2023, the agency issued payments to approximately 4,000 diagnosed with Covid-19 who were subsequently unable to work. In 2022, some 18,000 people claimed the same benefits. Blomgren added that the impact of Covid-19 on Finnish society was not now as “significantly visible” as it had been in previous years.

Under Kela’s sickness allowance scheme, the agency will compensate workers who experience a loss of earnings due to a medical issue. A doctor’s certificate is required to access the benefit plan, and Kela will pay sickness allowance for no more than one year. If a worker still receives wages during illness, the benefit payments are instead made to the person’s employer.

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