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Study indicates that mental overload causes work-related harm

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2023 | Workplace Injury |

Oftentimes, when academic studies make headlines, they confirm truths that have been long suspected. This was certainly the case recently when a Statistics Netherlands study clearly linked the challenges with so-called “mental overload” with the prevalence of accidents in the workplace. Although researchers weren’t assessing U.S. accident causes specifically, there is no doubt that the leading cause of workplace accidents in the Netherlands is also a driving factor behind workplace accidents in the U.S.

Mental overload, also known as psychological overload, is a consequential reality. Yet, for this challenge to be more fully identified and understood as a burden on the American workforce, it must be named, discussed and studied as it has been in the Netherlands. Until such efforts are made, it is unlikely that the frequency with which mental overload contributes to workplace harm will decrease in any meaningful way. 

What’s going wrong?

In the Netherlands, nearly one-fifth of workers blame their work-related harm on the stress caused by mental overload. Meaning, approximately 20% of injured workers believe that their workplace harm could have been prevented had they not been overburdened psychologically while engaged in work-related activities. 

What is it that is causing workers such distress? Many of those surveyed work in positions wherein they perform work that is physically demanding and they do not have any great control over the work that they do. Although these are not the only contributors to workers’ mental overload, it is worth noting that many injured workers who blame mental overload for their harm struggle with these circumstances.

There is much work yet to be done when it comes to understanding the role that psychological overload plays in work-related harm. Understanding that it is a risk factor and that this challenge can lead to harm is – at least, in the U.S. – likely the first step for employers, workers and researchers alike.