Finland reports rise in sick leave due to exhaustion

tiredExhaustion is being attributed in increasing numbers of cases as reason enough for Finnish workers to be granted paid sick leave. Traditionally Finland has used the “Z-diagnosis”, or unpaid leave, which determines that patients who are considered healthy may feel the need to spend time away from the workplace, albeit at their own expense.

According to statistics released by Kela, the social research institute of Finland, only 643 people were issued with the Z-diagnosis in 2008 which represents a marked decline from 2004, when 2,511 cases were reported. However, the numbers of cases of mental and psychological illness have seen a large increase as reported by news source YLE.

The internationally recognised Z-diagnosis is employed by doctors who deem that certain patients should be afforded time off from work despite having no definite medical illness.

Kela has claimed that it has undertaken a major education program with Finnish physicians to recognise the signs of exhaustion and to understand that it can often be prompted by a psychological condition which necessitates time away from the workplace.

The move is designed to better appreciate the personal conditions that contribute to exhaustion which often include fears on the part of employees that time off may be seen as a sign of weakness and many who are overwhelmed by their job are reluctant to take leave for fears that the workload will increase in their absence. Unfortunately the changes now mean that those previously afforded the Z-diagnosis will now have a medical record of anxiety or depression.

Hanna Jarvinen, the Chief Physician for Kela, claimed: “Earlier, the use of the Z-code has been a problem. And we’ve been trying to educate our doctors”. Jarvinen added that: “Many of those have now shifted to diagnoses of psychological illness. I think that’s good. Often a real illness has been masked by the Z – it was just given the wrong code.”

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