Sick leave due to anxiety disorders increases in Brazil

According to data from the Secretariat of Social Security, there has been a 17% increase in the grants of disease aid for anxiety disorders in the last four years – from 22,600 in 2012 to 26,500 in 2016. Anxiety accounts for 20% of cases of sick leave due to mental and behavioral disorders, behind only depression, which corresponds to 30% of cases.

According to Dr. João Silvestre da Silva Júnior, the director of International Relations of the Brazilian National Association of Occupational Medicine (Associação Nacional de Medicina do Trabalho – ANAMT), one of the explanations for the increase can be the economic reality of the country.

“The country is witnessing a series of organizational restructurings due to the crisis and this scenario may increase uncertainties about job security and the individual’s qualitative and quantitative workload,” he says.

The stigma over the workers with mental illness, which is called psychophobia, degenerates the relationships among colleagues in the workplace. The fear of exposing their illness can stimulate presenteeism and, over time, a feedback of the clinical picture can lead to a worsening disease, with the development of associated diseases – such as alcohol or psychoactive substance abuse.

According to Dr. João, the sick leave must happen when the worker is not able to perform the tasks inherent to the job: “Such repercussions may arise from the clinical symptoms or side effects of treatment with psychoactive drugs.”


Depression affects 322 million people worldwide and it is the main cause of sick leave due to mental and behavioral disorders in Brazil. In recent decades, the new ways of organizing the context and content of work have negatively influenced the workers’ mental health. The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently working on the “Let’s Talk” campaign, which aims to get more people with depression around the world to seek and get help.

Occupational physicians have an important social role in this context, as they can help and identify people suffering from this disease. For the director of ANAMT, a corporate environment where talking about mental health is not a taboo must be encouraged.

According to Dr. João, some of the actions required in good comprehensive care services for workers’ health: encouraging actions aimed at promoting mental health, recognizing work-related or non-work related risk situations, assembling a team prepared to accommodate workers with some kind of mental complaint; establishing assistance and rehabilitation protocols, and building an organizational support network.