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Unemployment is increasingly stressful

Unemployment is increasingly stressful

Official figures obtained by United Future social services spokeswoman Judy Turner, MP, show that the increase in the number of people transferring from the unemployment benefit to the sickness benefit is largely due to stress.

Of those who moved from the dole to the sickness benefit in the year ended 30 June, 2003, 55% more were claiming stress as the reason, compared to two years ago. Depression (44% increase) and musculo-skeletal disorders (30% increase) were also more likely to be reasons for a transfer to the sickness benefit.

"Many New Zealanders will be asking themselves whether the stress that these people experience on the dole is any greater than the stress that most of us face, yet we all keep on working," said Mrs Turner.

In May, the MP revealed that the number of people moving from the unemployment benefit to the sickness benefit had increased by 13% since 2000, and last month she released figures that showed the total number of sickness beneficiaries claiming for stress and other psychological problems had also increased over the last three years.

"Now there appears to be a clear connection between the two. In fact, those claiming stress make up almost half (47%) of the increase in those who have moved from the dole to sickness benefit in the last two years.

"Given the low level of unemployment and skills shortage, I am concerned that some people may be moving to the sickness benefit because it's more difficult to avoid work.

"The fact that most of those people who are transferring to the sickness benefit are doing so for ailments that may be difficult to diagnose simply adds further weight to this.

"For example, a GP is able to prescribe anti-depressants to a patient without the need for referral to a therapist, and this would be enough to get a sickness benefit," said Mrs Turner.

Just over 13,000 people are now claiming the sickness benefit, a 13% rise on two years ago.

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