A business campaign has been launched to encourage employers to improve workplace health and well-being.
Northern Ireland's chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, said work had a powerful effect on the health at the launch of Business in the Community’s campaign.
The launch took place as part of a conference on health and well-being in work, organised with the Northern Ireland Health Promotion Agency.
Dr McBride said: "Work is a fundamental part of our lives, giving a sense of belonging, opportunities for social interaction and income.
"Being in employment also gives people a measure of control and improves their health."
Addressing an audience of 125 business professionals, Dr McBride referred to links between suicide and workplace health.
"Being long-term unemployed increases the risk of suicide by 35 times and the children of unemployed people have more health problems and poorer general health.
"This poorer health is reflected in higher medicine consumption and hospital admissions.
"Output losses in 2003 due to workplace mental health issues cost £789m and early intervention can avoid the need for crisis intervention at a later stage.
"Good workplaces with sound leadership allow for self-development and are settings for empowerment and for learning.
"Through our workplaces, I am confident we can help address many of our preventable health risks."
The conference marked the beginning of Business in the Community’s campaign, Business Action on Health.
Tanya Kennedy, workplace director for Business in the Community, said: "Twenty of our major employers signed a pledge to signify their commitment to tackling the issues around workplace health and well-being.
"Business in the Community's message to those key employers today was very clear — healthy people equal healthy profits."
Bro McFerran, managing director of Allstate NI, addressed business leaders who signed the health and well-being pledge.
"Business Action on Health is Business in the Community's response to the growing concerns around the health of the population in Northern Ireland and the impact which workplaces can have — both positive and negative.
"The health of the people in Northern Ireland is one of the over-arching priorities for government nationally and for our own Executive,” he said.
"In fact, the workplace has been identified as one of the priority settings for improving the health of our people."
"Thanks also to our Champions for Business Action on Health — Alliance Boots, BT, Marks & Spencer, Northern Bank and WellNet, for investing in the launch and helping roll-out the campaign in Northern Ireland."
For more information on Business in the Community, go to www.bitcni.org.uk