Women, young men and people unable to work from home are more likely to suffer from long-term sickness which prevents them from working, according to a new report.
A new paper examining the impact of ill health on the UK’s working-age population, those aged between 16 and 64, found long-term sickness in women across all ages has been rising since 2014, with women becoming “economically inactive” at a higher rate than men.
There has been an increase in economic inactivity in young men, aged 16 to 24, with sharp increases in mental health issues, the SOM paper found.
Occupations with a low ability to work from home are more likely to see people leave the workforce due to long-term sickness.
More than 11m people are living with long-term health conditions, of whom 7.4m – 66 per cent – are employed, the report said, compared to a 52 per cent employment rate for those with mental health conditions.
Multiple factors could be causing the high rates of people off work for long-term health conditions including: an ageing population; “high rates of excess weight and obesity”; high levels of alcohol consumption; smoking; long-term health problems; and NHS pressures.
SOM chief executive Nick Pahl said: “The historically high number of people off work long-term sick remains an immediate and pressing concern for the government.
“Without investment in occupational health, these figures will continue to get worse.”
He added: “It’s vital that we understand why the UK is seeing a rise in inactivity rates compared to other OECD countries.
“We need to understand what the catalysts are, the drivers of fallout, and what factors contribute to preventing people return to work.”
A government spokesperson said: “We’re helping more people stay in work by introducing the next generation of welfare reforms, with the latest figures showing inactivity has fallen by over 231,000 since the pandemic peak.
“Our new Universal Support programme will help thousands who need extra support to start work, and we’re consulting on plans to increase occupational health take-up by employers.”
“On top of this we’re investing up to £14.1bn to improve health services and cut waiting lists, with a focus on prevention to help people live longer, healthier lives.”
Press Association – Ella Pickover