The Germans are stressed
This statement is not a big surprise to most people. Every now and then the media talk about stress, but also in their personal environment many have already made the following experience with themselves, their family, good friends or acquaintances: Stress is omnipresent.
In this article we would like to focus on stressed out workers – and how to help them. By the way, we are referring here to distress, i.e. to what is known as negative stress, positive stress should not be an issue here. What mindfulness in general can do for companies, you can read in more detail in another of our articles
But now back to our stressed out population
Numbers, data, facts
The number of cases of incapacity to work is increasing. Strictly speaking, the number of cases of incapacity to work due to psychological diagnoses increased by 174 percent for women and by as much as 181 percent for men between 1997 and 2018. However, it is not only that the absolute number of cases is rising; the average duration of incapacity to work due to psychological causes has also increased. Whereas in 2016 the average duration of incapacity to work was still 26.6 days, by 2018 it had risen to 33.7 days. According to another statistic, the number of days per 100 policyholders in 2018 was 236, compared to 76.7 in 1997. In addition, mental illnesses are the third most frequent cause of days of incapacity to work in 2018, accounting for 15.3% of the total. Only diseases of the respiratory and musculoskeletal systems exceed the psyche in percentage terms.
So employees are burdened – but by what?
The two most common reasons seem to be work under time and performance pressure, overtime and long working hours. A high workload is also an external risk factor for burn-out diseases. Incidentally, the prevalence figures for this have also risen in recent years. In 2004, the AOK counted 0.6 cases of incapacity to work due to burnout per 1,000 insurance members, and by 2017 the figure will be 5.5. This may not sound like much, but it is a nine-fold increase in 13 years.
In 2016, the Techniker Krankenkasse carried out an extensive study – the TK Stress Study, concisely titled “Relax, Germany”. Some interesting results are, for example, that especially people who have to be constantly available for their job are mostly stressed. When asked about stress factors, work took first place, followed by high demands on oneself and many obligations in leisure time. The concrete stressors at the workplace were previously mentioned as too much work, deadline pressure/hectic rush, interruptions/disruptions, lack of recognition and information overload. Four out of ten of those affected say that they cannot switch off properly – three of them do not even switch off at weekends or on holiday. But those who cannot switch off tend to live a less healthy life. It becomes apparent: there is a lack of peace and balance.
Finally, the TK-Stress study shows that stress correlates negatively with physical and mental health. In general one could say: the more stress, the higher the probability of getting sick. This is not only disadvantageous for the person affected, but also for his or her family and employer. In the next paragraph, we wanted to shed light on what exactly can cause excessive stress for economic damage.
Burnout as economic disaster
Of course, suffering from stress or even mental illness is bad on an individual level and should be prevented for this reason alone. From an economic point of view, however, the costs incurred by sick employees are also interesting.
In a sample calculation, it was calculated that for every ten employees suffering from burn-out, there is an economic loss of €129,413. According to the source Bundesverband Bürohund e.V., these costs are due to three factors:
- A declining work performance of the affected person during the development of the disease process.
- An increasing error rate of the employee.
- The additional burden on other colleagues caused by absences.
However, these figures only refer to burnout, not to other mental disorders. The extent to which these costs are incurred naturally depends on the individual failure situation of the person affected.
These economic losses underline the importance of healthy employees. From a moral and economic point of view, it therefore makes sense to invest early in the prevention of stress-related illnesses. Moreover, less stressed employees are also more likely to be happy – and being happy has been proven to increase productivity (Oswald, Proto, & Sgroi, 2015)! Satisfied, healthy and motivated employees; this is roughly how one could define the goal of occupational health management.
In a survey, however, only about 22% of respondents said that their company offered burn-out prevention measures.
And this is exactly where Mindfulife comes into play.
Meditation for workplace health promotion
Mindfulife offers scientifically based meditation and mindfulness sessions for both companies and individuals. But in what way can meditation make an important contribution to stress management at work?
Let’s take a look at some studies on this.
An American study by Dane and Brummel (2013), which looked at workers in the restaurant sector, examined the relationship between workplace mindfulness and some variables relevant to the workplace. Here the researchers found a positive correlation between individual workplace mindfulness and job performance. This correlation is remarkable because other causes of good performance, such as one’s own personality or individual abilities, cannot be trained. Mindfulness on the other hand can.
Two other studies even suggest a connection between a manager’s mindfulness and the job satisfaction, performance and well-being of his or her employees (Reb, Narayanan & Chaturvedi, 2012).
In an already somewhat older study by Anderson, Levinson, Barker and Kiewra (1999), the influence of a 5-week meditation intervention was tested on 91 full-time teachers – here the researchers found that stress and anxiety levels of the participants were significantly reduced.
In addition, a six-week MBSR (Mindfulness Bases Stress Reduction) program has also proven to be effective. University employees participated in the study. After the intervention, they stated that they subjectively felt less stress. They also reported better sleep quality than the subjects in the control group who did not undergo the MBSR program. The daily attentiveness values also increased (Klatt, Buckworth & Malarkey, 2008).
Regarding multitasking, a study by Levy, Wobbrock, Kaszniak and Ostergren (2012) found that participants who underwent meditation training spent more time on one task and had fewer task changes. In addition, the subjects had a better memory for details of their tasks. They also exhibited less stress and negative feelings after a multitasking test compared to the control group.
In a study with managers from Crivelli, Fronda, Genturella and Balconi (2019), who received mindfulness training using technological devices, psycho-physiological consequences of occupational stress were investigated. The results: a significant reduction of anxiety, anger, stress and mental exhaustion. In contrast, an increased ability to process information, higher efficiency during cognitive tasks and electrophysiological markers (brain waves measured by EEG) indicate relaxation and concentration. Thus, physical effects of mindfulness and meditation can also be observed.
Another recent study from 2019 looked at which aspect of mindfulness might be responsible for making people feel less stressed. Here it was found that the accepting attitude plays a particularly important role in this process (Chin et al., 2019). So it is not enough to just try to be in the present moment or to relax. An attitude characterized by acceptance, as it is with mindfulness, is essential.
ven in a psychotherapeutic environment mindfulness can be helpful. Here, a study showed the effectiveness of meditation-based stress management in alleviating clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders (Lee, Ahn, Lee, Choi, Yook & Suh, 2007).
Science at the next higher level: meta-analysis
Finally, from a scientific perspective, it is important to take a look at some meta-analyses. A meta-analysis is a study in which many studies are considered together. So it is not about testing something experimentally, but rather about exploring what many studies have found out about a certain topic (and thus what can be considered a scientific consensus). To do this, the effects found are summarized, so to speak, and tested statistically once again. If studies differ too much to carry out further statistical analyses, but you still look at a large number of studies qualitatively, this can be called a systematic review.
So let’s take a look at these kinds of scientific publications.
In a meta-analysis, in which 29 studies with a total of 2886 participants were examined, the authors asked the question to what extent meditation has an effect on stress and anxiety in healthy people. They found that meditation had large and good effects on perceived stress and moderate effects on anxiety (Khoury, Sharma, Rush, & Fournier, 2015).
In addition, a systematic review, which included 23 studies, found reduced emotional fatigue (which is a criterion of burnout), reduced stress perception, as well as less anxiety, depression and occupational stress. Higher values were found in mindfulness, experiencing personal performance, self-compassion, sleep quality and relaxation (Janssen, Heerkens, Kuijer, Heijden, & Engels, 2018).
A further meta-analysis, which included 39 studies, found that mindfulness-based meditation improved negative aspects of personality such as excessive dominance, better stress reduction, increased self-assessment mindfulness, and improved well-being and lower emotional instability (known as neuroticism). In general, the effects of mindfulness-based meditation reported in the meta-analysis are all desirable (Eberth & Sedlmeier, 2012).
The last meta-analysis we are looking at today comprises 20 studies. They looked at the effects of MBSR on both clinical problems such as cardiovascular disease or depression and non-clinical problems such as stress management – and again, MBSR significantly improved physical and mental health (Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2010).
On the whole, one can summarize: the positive effects of meditation and mindfulness can not only be experienced subjectively, but can also be understood objectively.
Everything back to square one: the Germans are still stressed out!
If we now think back to the statistics we examined at the beginning, three main statements can be deduced from this article:
- Germans are excessively stressed – this is a major problem, because individual and collective health suffers as a result.
- Mindfulness and meditation can help to reduce stress and thus act as preventive measures before health problems occur.
- If health impairment already exists, mindfulness and meditation can help to improve it again.
The conclusion: Mindfulness and meditation should be given a place in corporate health management!
In short – this article at a glance
- According to current statistics, German workers are affected by stress and stress-related illnesses.
- This leads to loss of working hours and thus to clearly noticeable financial losses for companies – the Bundesverband Bürohund e.V. calculated 129,413 € costs per ten employees suffering from burnout
- Many studies and meta-analyses suggest positive effects of meditation and mindfulness. Some of these are reduced stress, higher concentration, alleviated symptoms of anxiety and fear, reduced emotional exhaustion and generally better mental and physical health.
- Meditation as a measure in corporate health management can thus help employees preventively as well as intervening and thus save costs for companies.
The studies cited in this article ultimately represent only a small part of the current research on meditation and mindfulness. However, they show that science has collected some evidence about the effectiveness of these two concepts. This has now reached the business community – large, successful companies are already taking advantage of mindfulness, such as Google and Intel (Confino, 2014; Intel, 2015).
If you are also interested in mindfulness in your company, we would be happy to refer you to our offer for companies. Mindfulife supports you in bringing the benefits of meditation closer to your employees or yourself
We also recommend our articles on the effects of meditation and mindfulness to all those, whose curiosity has been aroused.