More illness among young affecting work ability

Posted: 17th November 2023

Millions of workers in the UK are struggling with ill-health that is affecting their ability at work.

The Health Foundation analysis found 12% of people in work – 3.7 million – had a “work-limiting” condition.

That is up from 8.5% a decade ago – a rise of 1.4 million.

Working young people have experienced a particularly sharp rise – and are now as likely to report ill-health affecting their work as a middle-aged person a decade ago.

More than 10% of those aged 16 to 34 in work cited poor health as an issue.

One of those is health and safety specialist Shaney Wright, who is 33 and struggles with long-Covid.

Before the pandemic he managed a team of six, but has had to step back from management duties and even spent a period working part-time as he battled a range of symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, allergies and eyesight difficulties.

“It has been really debilitating and my health has completely affected my career aspirations,” he said.

“My employer has been wonderful, but I would not feel confident putting myself forward for some of the roles I used to dream about.”

Huge burden

The most common causes of ill-health were chronic illnesses like heart disease, mental health conditions and joint and bone problems.

The Health Foundation – a charity which says it aims to bring about better health and care – said the analysis showed how big a problem the UK was facing with ill-health – and it is now setting up a commission of experts to investigate the issue further.

It said while much of the focus had been on those unable to work because of poor health, this report showed there were as many people with work-limiting illnesses in employment as there were out of work.

The think tank said it showed workers needed more support from the government and employers to improve their health.

Those with work-limiting conditions were more likely to be women and people living in deprived areas.

On average, they earned 15% less than other workers.

Health Foundation chief executive Dr Jennifer Dixon said: “The impact of poor health on individuals and their families, whether they are in work or not, is considerable.

“For the country, poor health in the working-age population will drag down productivity, the economy and add a huge avoidable burden on public services and employers.”

It is unclear exactly what has caused the rise – some may be down to better reporting of conditions like mental ill-health, but other factors include the rising number of people waiting for treatment and the health impact of the pandemic.

The findings are based on the Labour Force Survey, which has recently been stopped by the Office for National Statistics because the numbers taking part had fallen.

However, the Health Foundation believes the data it has used is still accurate enough for its analysis.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said a newly-announced £2.5bn Back to Work plan was helping people with health problems look for and stay in work by heralding a “huge expansion of employment and health support”.

Source: More illness among young affecting work ability – BBC News

Categories: News