“Psychosocial risks are the great pandemic of this century and they are related to the precarious conditions of the labour market,” warns Ana García de la Torre, secretary of occupational health of Spain’s General Union of Workers (UGT). According to UGT, “psychosocial risks are still not included in the catalogue of professional illnesses.” For this reason, many companies do not include them in their risk analyses and they are ignored in medical examinations.
Work-related stress is primarily the result of overwork and an increase in the use of technology. According to the ILO’s most recent health and safety report, 36 percent of the world’s employees work too much (more than 48 hours a week), and all of this overtime puts them at risk.
“There is a close correlation between excessive working hours and accidents at work,” the report warns. “Excessive working hours are associated with the chronic effects of fatigue, which can lead to cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, high rates of anxiety, depression, and sleeping disorders.”
Job insecurity, precarious contracts, and low wages have created a new category of working poor. Today, in addition to earning low wages, they are also more likely to become sick or injured.
José Antonio Llosa, PhD in Psychology at the University of Gijon, explains, “This flexibility and mobility, this extreme and constant obligation to leave your zone of comfort without any type of security results in extreme physical and emotional exhaustion. Job insecurity is linked to poor mental health outcomes with higher rates of depression, anxiety and despondency. It also impacts the way people organize their lives and frustrates their plans,” says Llosa, who is participating in a research project on precariousness and mental health, also warns of a direct link between job insecurity and drug consumption and between perpetual uncertainty and thoughts of suicide. “Obviously suicidal thoughts do not necessarily equate to attempts, but they are indicative of a very deep malaise.”