SWEDEN: Work-related diseases are usually caused by social factors

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Since 2011, diseases due to organizational and social factors at work have increased by 77%, according to the Swedish environment authority (Arbetsmiljoverket). This, not to mention a recent surge in sick leaves, has stimulated a debate on the best way to combat occupational health problems.

The authority’s report published in June 2016 is based on data from the occupational injury and disease information system (ISA). It reveals that 12,141 cases of work-related diseases were reported in 2015, 4,174 of which were due to social or organizational factors: difficulties in cooperating, harassment, mobbing or social exclusion (by supervisors, colleagues or others). The healthcare and social service sectors are those most concerned (1,831 cases), followed by education (734) and general government (554).

Overall, ergonomic factors are the most common cause (4,559 cases) of all work-related diseases, followed by physical factors (1,739 cases) and biological/chemical substances or factors (1,245 cases).

Faced with the increase in sick leaves, the Swedish government has embarked on an action programme for better health and a reduction in sick leaves. It has therefore proposed making employers partially financially liable for prolonged sick leaves. The proposal has been severely criticized and unanimously opposed by the social partners.

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