How can we create workplaces that promote positive mental health, protect against mental disorders and support employees who experience mental health problems? That is what European researchers now will work together to find out.

The number of sick days caused by mental health conditions are on the rise in most European countries. In any one year, almost 40 percent of the EU work force suffers from a mental disorder. Stress, depression and anxiety are among the most common causes of illness and absence from work in Europe, and it is estimated that a quarter of the EU population will experience mental health problems during their lifetime.

At the same time, research shows that job loss and unemployment have a negative effect on mental health, while return to work affects our mental health in a positive way.

New research project

Researchers from nine European countries have now received funding from the EU’s research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 to investigate how we can promote positive mental health in the workplace.

– Today, we know what creates good, health promoting workplaces, but we do not know much about the practical implications or what works for whom. We lack tools for evaluating actions taken to promote positive mental health in the workplace, explains Marit Christensen, assistant professor at the Department of Psychology at NTNU.

She will, together with the professors Siw Tone Innstrand and Per Øystein Saksvik, lead NTNU’s participation in the research project.

Evaluating interventions

The project brings together 14 partners from nine European countries. The researchers will develop and evaluate measures, tools and models that can be used at different levels of small and medium-sized businesses and organisations – to implement and evaluate health promoting interventions.

– The systems we are developing will make workplaces all over Europe better equipped to work systematically and over time with promoting positive mental health among employees. In the long term, that will mean a lot to peoples’ health, but also to society – in the form of reduced costs, adds Siw Tone Innstrand.

The research project is titled “Mental Health in the Workplace: Multulevel Interventions to Promote Mental Health in SMEs and Public Workplaces” and is coordinated by Alma Mater Studiorum at the University of Bologna, Italy. The project period spans over three years.