Violet writes below about how the stress of work can make depression worse, and I thought I should back that up with a few figures and examples.

For instance:

Just ask France Telecom. Since the beginning of 2008, 24 employees at the company have committed suicide and an additional 13 have attempted suicide. Many of these victims left suicide notes implying the company’s working environment was a key factor in their decisions — one even explicitly cited “overwork, stress, absence of training and the total disorganization in the company.” Some of the attempts occurred on France Telecom premises.

Working hours in the UK have increased steadily since the 1970s, and with them working stress.

In January 2004, a marketing director at Prudential was reported as saying: “Our research shows that an alarming number of people appear to be unhappy in their employment and unfulfilled by their work”. BBC News has quoted the International Stress Management Association saying: “Each year we conduct research into stress and each year the figure just keeps on getting worse.”

According to UN figures, approximately two million workers die annually due to occupational injuries and illnesses. This is more than double the figure for deaths from warfare. Work kills more people than alcohol and drugs together.

Less than a month after attacking the depressed and stressed for whining instead of working, the Daily Express has reported that work-related mental illness leaves “employers with a total bill for lost productivity of £28.3 billion a year”. Even the measures which concentrate purely on the economic impact on depression for businesses and ignore the suffering of the individuals admit workplace stress and misery a major problem.

This may all sound like I’m saying work sucks and you’d be a sucker to do it, the kind of attitude often attributed to the ‘benefits culture’.

That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that any policy that tries to get people off benefits by focusing purely on making them apply for jobs, and ignores the real harm the work culture can do, does considerably more harm than it does good.

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