Sharp increase in number of German workers off sick due to stress

Sharp increase in number of German workers off sick due to stress

Information published by the Kaufmännische Krankenkasse (KKH) has revealed that the number of German workers taking sick leave due to stress has risen by 85 percent in the first half of 2023, when compared to the same period in the previous year.

85 percent increase of German workers taking stress-related sick leave

Whether it be due to real wage losses caused by inflation, problems in their personal lives or being constantly overworked while picking up loose ends in a record-high worker shortage, workers in Germany are increasingly stressed.

New figures from the KKH, the largest statutory health insurance provider in Germany which insures 1,6 million people, have revealed the extent of the ongoing crisis. In the first half of 2023, the Krankenkasse recorded 303 stress-related sick days taken for every 100 insured people - meaning there has been an 85 percent increase in such cases when compared to the same period in 2022.

In the first half of 2022, the Krankenkasse recorded 164 stress-related sick days per 100 workers, and 137 in the first half of 2021.

“The development is alarming,” KKH industrial psychologist Antje Judick told the dpa, “The sharp increase in prolonged sick leave periods indicates that there are more cases of severe mental illness.”

Management culture increases employee stress, says DGB

A recent report by job-seeking platform Stepstone revealed that 90 percent of companies in Germany are currently struggling to find adequately qualified staff to fill vacant jobs. Some roles, particularly those in the public sector, are being hit particularly badly when it comes to staff shortages. 

But the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) thinks that the causes of prolonged stress run even deeper, in the country’s work culture. Responding to the new figures from the KKH, DGB board member Anja Piel told IamExpat that employers must organise work so that it does not endanger the health of employees.

“This means always scheduling sufficient staff to complete all tasks. Unfortunately, the reality in many companies is different: employees have more tasks that must be completed in the same amount of time,” Piel said, adding that in the worst cases, “this is exacerbated by management culture, which instead of celebrating successes together, increasingly shifts the responsibility of failure on to the individual”.

Piel added that such pressures lead employees to “forego important holiday leave or go to work sick”. Even when they do make it on holiday, a recent survey by YouGov, found that 37 percent of Germans remain contactable to their boss and or colleagues while they are on holiday leave.

“It must not be the case that the shortage of skilled workers with thin staffing levels comes fully at the expense of employees' health," Piel concluded, urging employers to explore other possibilities of working productively while recognising the limits of their staff’s capacity. 

Thumb image credit: sheff /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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