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Every month, more than 20,000 people are claiming incapacity benefit for mental health problems

According to official data published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), at least 20,000 people a month in the UK are deemed unable to work because of mental health problems. These problems now account for two-thirds of the incapacity benefit claims, the DWP figures show.

This research provides official data for the first time because although it has long been known that mental health accounts for the majority of disability benefit claims, which are paid regardless of whether or not someone is able to work, until now there has been no data on incapacity benefits paid through Universal Credit, which are paid when people are unable to work.

According to DWP data, two million people receive universal credit health benefits (an increase of 400,000 on the previous year), 69 per cent of whom are deemed unfit for any work.

In the last two years, 69% of all evaluations carried out concerned ‘mental and behavioural disorders’. In addition, 90% of the applicants whose ability to work was found to be limited were found to be suffering from mental and behavioural disorders.

How can your work affect your mental health?

As we have mentioned in previous posts, mental health problems are a reality in the UK, with one in four people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem at some point. Anxiety and depression are the most common pathologies. These are often brought on by a difficult event, such as duel or a break-up, but can also be caused by problems at work. Not only can work cause mental health problems, it can also aggravate the symptoms or effects of pre-existing illnesses.

Work stress is one of the main causes of mental health problems in employees. Stress causes different changes in the body. Symptoms can be cognitive, physical, emotional or behavioural. In stressful situations, the autonomic nervous system takes over. This system regulates the functioning of internal organs such as the heart, stomach and intestines. Muscles tense, heart rate and breathing increase, short-term memory becomes more efficient and the body goes into survival mode because it senses danger.

It is important to recognise the level of stress a person is under. For example, if it is in small doses, it can improve thinking skills and help to cope with situations where there is a need to perform, such as the delivery of a project. It can also improve the ability to react, such as finding a way to solve a problem.

However, the impact of prolonged stress has serious consequences for health. Some of the most common symptoms that indicate this saturation of periods of stress are: feeling overwhelmed, anxiety, panic attacks, insecurity, inability to make decisions, changes in mood and attitude, loss of appetite, reduced productivity, lack of concentration or sleep problems, among others.