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29.10.2018 | Original Article | Ausgabe 2/2019 Open Access

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 2/2019

Sick leave and work-related accidents of social workers in Germany: an analysis of routine data

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health > Ausgabe 2/2019
Tanja Wirth, Dana Wendeler, Madeleine Dulon, Albert Nienhaus
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00420-018-1370-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



The study aimed to explore the prevalence of sick leave and the risk of work-related accidents among German social workers and to describe causes and time trends in sick leave and accident claims.


A retrospective analysis of routine data was carried out. Aggregated sick leave data of 195,100 social workers from four health insurance funds and 3037 accident claims of social workers from an accident insurance institution were analysed. Causes of accidents were examined by statistics of the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV). Sick leave rates per 100 insured person-years were calculated. Relative risks (RR) of accidents were calculated in a multivariate analysis for three occupational groups (social workers and therapists, caregivers in sheltered workshops and teachers in residential institutions) and compared to other health and welfare service workers.


Mental disorders caused about one-fifth of the sick leave days of social workers. Sick leave due to mental disorders slightly increased in 2015 compared to 2012 (+ 3% and + 18%). Among the three subgroups of social workers, caregivers in sheltered workshops (RR 1.30; 95% CI 1.14–1.49) and teachers in residential institutions (RR 1.41; 95% CI 1.17–1.70) were at an increased risk of accidents at the workplace. Accidents were mostly caused by slipping (30%) and by violence (22%).


This study confirms that sick leave of social workers is frequently caused by mental disorders. Future studies could further examine differences between practice fields, long-term effects of work hazards and effective workplace interventions.

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