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2.5 million adults in UK economically inactive due to long-term ill health

September 2023

More than 2.5 million in the UK are economically inactive due to one or more long-term health conditions, ONS data has revealed.

Over half of this number (1.3 million) suffer from ‘depression, bad nerves or anxiety’ but musculoskeletal issues also factor high on the list, with many people reporting interlinked health issues.

The data report, which covers Quarter one of this year, or January to March, shows that of the total off sick, 38 per cent report having five or more health conditions, up from 34 per cent in 2019.

“All this suggests that many people have interlinked and complex health issues, which might mean that they have more than one health barrier to hinder their return to the world of work,” explained Darren Morgan, director of statistics production at the ONS.

1.35 million people are reporting a musculoskeletal health condition. Since 2019, problems with legs or feet rose by 243,000 (29 per cent) and problems with back or neck rose by 217,000 (28 per cent).

Long term sickness overall is also on the rise, with 36 per cent of UK adults naming at least one long-term health condition, up from 31 per cent in the same period in 2019.

It comes as the TUC published a report showing that 1 in 2 workers feel that work is getting more intense and demanding.

The TUC survey of 2,198 workers in England and Wales found that four in 10 (38 per cent) are feeling more stressed at work, or required do more work in the same amount of time.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “Gruelling hours, pace and expectations at work are growing problems up and down the country. This is a recipe for burnt out Britain. Chronic staff shortages, intrusive surveillance tech and poor enforcement of workers’ rights have all combined to create a perfect storm. It’s little wonder that so many feel exhausted at the end of their working day.”

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