Modern Work: How changes to the way we work are impacting Australians’ mental health

The Blackdog Institute has released a white paper that seeks to better understand the impact of an escalating trend of mental ill-health in workplaces. 

The first section of the report provides a historical perspective to help define the nature of modern work.  It traces the key shifts in work roles, workplaces and Australia’s working population since 2000.  The second section uses data collected from more than 9000 Australian workers as part of the annual House, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) surveys to better understand shifts in workers’ lives and experiences, with a focus on work-related mental health risk factors.  The third section uses mental health and suicide data from a range of sources to examine what, if any, shifts have occurred in the mental health and wellbeing of Australian workers.

This finds that rates of suicide among working aged Australians have remained relatively stable.  However mental health symptoms gradually increased over the last decade, most apparent amongst younger workers aged under 25, and in the last year exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  While the rate of mental health related workers’ compensation claims has remained relatively stable over recent years, recovery from these injuries is taking longer. 

The final section provides five key recommendations for businesses:Provide managers with evidence-based mental health training to improve their recognition of and response to mental ill health and related risk factors in the workplace.Build mentally healthy workplaces through organisational-level strategies that facilitate worker autonomy, improved job control and flexible work.Take immediate preventative action on workplace bullying and sexual harassment and assault.Implement evidence-based protective mental health and wellbeing interventions for all employees.Account for a steady post-pandemic workplace transition.
The Black Dog Institute shares these findings in a 50-minute webinar available here.

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