Mental health problems present a challenge to work life – extensive data from the 1960s onwards now available

Mental health problems present a major challenge for Finnish work life. Reasonable workload, clear goals and a sense of community are key in promoting good mental health. The Work-Life Knowledge service of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health provides compiled research data on mental health in Finnish work life.
Pekka Varje
Pekka Varje
Salla Toppinen-Tanner
Salla Toppinen-Tanner

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media release 16 November 2023

Work life can either support or weaken an individual's mental health. The shifts in work life and society have made mental health a key prerequisite for work ability. Problems with mental health cause an increasing number of sickness absences and disability pensions.

The promotion of mental health at work focuses on strengthening the resources of employees and work. Reducing the costs of incapacity for work requires both knowledge of mental health problems and methods to support the mental health of employees.

“It is vital to identify the industries in which special mental well-being support is required and to obtain researched information in order to determine the appropriate measures. If the mental health competence of workplaces is supported, the excessive workload and the risk of job burnout of personnel can be identified in time,” says Director Salla Toppinen-Tanner from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and continues:

“In addition to a reasonable workload and clear goals, it is important to carry out more measures that support a sense of community in work communities, increase the meaningfulness of work and reduce the experience of unfairness.”

Diverse mental health information in the Work-Life Knowledge service

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s Work-Life Knowledge service offers several different perspectives on mental health based on various data sets and approaches. Each publication offers a unique perspective and the number of publications will increase over time. The service provides diverse information on the prevalence of mental health disorders, risk factors and resource factors.

“The mental health content of the Work-Life Knowledge service brings together indicators that can be used to examine the accomplishment of the goals of the National Mental Health Strategy and the Suicide Prevention Agenda 2020–2030 from the perspective of work life,” Salla Toppinen-Tanner says.

General trend of mental health challenges shown by the extensive data set

The Work-Life Knowledge service offers, for example, an exceptionally broad view of the development of mental health-based sickness allowance periods. Data is available from the 1960s to the present day.

“The number of mental health-based sickness absences reflects the overall employment rate. Mental well-being challenges grew strongly from the mid-1990s onwards. During the financial crisis, as unemployment increased, there was also a temporary decrease in the number of sickness absences, but as of 2016, the number started increasing strongly again,” says Research Manager Pekka Varje from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and continues:

“Although mental health-based sickness absences and disability pensions do not cover the entire topic of mental well-being, they are a key indicator of the costs of mental health problems.”

Mental health information in the Work-Life Knowledge service: Mental health is a multidimensional issue of work life |

Further information

  • Work-Life Knowledge service: Pekka Varje, Research Manager, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, +358 (0)50 576 8236, pekka.varje [at] (pekka[dot]varje[at]ttl[dot]fi)
  • Salla Toppinen-Tanner, Director, Work Ability and Working Careers, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, +358 (0)46 851 2517, salla.toppinen-tanner [at] ( salla[dot]toppinen-tanner[at]ttl[dot]fi)

See also

  • The Mental Health Toolkit provides workplaces with tools to promote mental health and address challenges related to work ability: Mental Health Toolkit

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