THOR: Surveillance of occupational stress and mental illness (SOSMI)

SOSMI was a surveillance scheme that started in 1999 collecting information on cases of occupational stress and mental illness reported by consultant psychiatrists. The UK Health and Safety Executive funded data collection for SOSMI until the end of 2008 with COEH funding a further year of data collection (2009) before data collection stopped. A total of 500 consultant psychiatrists returned case reports to SOSMI; most reported for one randomly selected month each year with a core group of about 11 reporting every month of the year.

For further information, see: Map showing distribution of SOSMI reporters

For each reported case, psychiatrists were asked to provide information on diagnosis (assigning their case to one or more of six main diagnostic categories*), age, sex, region, job, industry and the event that was believed to have precipitated the illness.

*The six main diagnostic categories were as following:

  • Anxiety/depression
  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Other work-related stress
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Psychotic episode
  • Other (e.g. Chronic fatigue syndrome, Obsessive compulsive disorder, Agoraphobia)

A total of 3,641 case reports were collected by SOSMI during 1999-2009. The collection of the valuable data by this surveillance scheme helped to identify the areas and occupational categories at greatest risk from occupational mental ill health. Although data collection from psychiatrists has now stopped, data on work-related mental ill-health are still collected from occupational physicians reporting to OPRA and from GP’s reporting to THOR-GP, with approximately 40% of the cases reported to OPRA and 39% of the cases reported to THOR-GP being mental ill-health. These data are important because stress and mental illness has become one of the common causes of work sickness absence, and greater knowledge of these illnesses should help provide improved working conditions for future prevention.

Key outputs from SOSMI

Data collected by psychiatrists reporting to SOSMI have been used in numerous outputs ranging from requests for information from reporters and other interested bodies to annual provision of statistics for publication on the Health and Safety Executive website. Key outputs include:

Further information

For further information regarding SOSMI, please contact Dr Melanie Carder.

We would once again like to extend our thanks to all the psychiatrists who participated in SOSMI