Technological revolution causing depression

Email, instant messaging, voicemail, faxes and text messaging are creating a 24 hour office

One in ten workers are suffering from depression due to information overload, according to a study published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) this week. The report finds the technological revolution largely responsible for mental health problems among workers in the UK, US, Finland, Germany and Poland.

Three out of ten employees in the UK experience work-related mental health problems, with one in every 20 working Britons suffering from major depression, reports the ILO study. Certified sickness absence due to occupational ill health is costing UK business £5.3bn annually according to figures from the Confederation of British Industry.

The ILO survey draws a strong connection between work-induced stress and the impact of the information technology revolution. It argues that the rapid introduction of technology in the UK and US has accelerated competition and increased pressure in the workplace. "New information technology has changed the organisational structure of the workplace, meaning that workers have had to adapt more quickly than they were prepared to," said Phyllis Gabriel, rehabilitation specialist at the ILO.

"Information overload is a stressful and time wasting activity," said Professor Adrian Furnham, professor of psychology at University College London. "We're being over-communicated with nowadays, which is making it difficult for workers to prioritise in their work. The sin of technology is that it has made communication too easy -- it is now so cheap that people are accessible all of the time."

The ILO report estimates that between three and four percent of GNP is spent on mental health problems in European Union countries. The report recommends that the most fundamental step for UK employees' and employers' organisations is "to recognise and accept that mental health is an important issue and show commitment to mental health promotion".

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