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Psychological problems force more Germans into early retirement

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of Germans seeking early retirement because of psychological problems. Depression and burnout force more people out of work than cardio vascular diseases or cancer.

The “Welt am Sonntag” newspaper reports the findings of a study conducted by the German pension fund, which reveals a dramatic increase of serious psychological problems among Germany's workforce.

According to the survey 41 per cent, or 73,000, of those seeking early retirement in 2011, did this because a psychological disorder such as depression or burn out made it impossible for them to continue working. In the year 2000 this figure had stood at only 24 per cent.

The researchers say the dramatic rise can be partially be attributed to a change in society where psychological problems are not as stigmatized as they used to be, so more people dare speak out openly about their problems.

Trade union representatives doubt that this is the reason for the increase. They point to an increased work load resulting in time pressure and overtime.

“The stress factors in the workplace have increased so dramatically that this is taking its toll on employees' health,” said Annelie Buntenbach of the German trade union association.

Labour minister Ursula von der Leyen responded to the latest findings by announcing a new initiative to improve worker protection. “We have to take the new findings into consideration and take action,” she said.

The official retirement age in Germany stands at 65, but is being moved up gradually to 67 over the next few years. More than 150,000 people per year opt out before then - at age 55 at the earliest - for health reasons, which lowers the average retirement age in the country to just under 62 years. This is higher than the average in France, but lower than average when compared to other countries in Europe.

rg/jm (KNA, dpa)