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Fall in working days lost to sickness

Around 131 million working days were lost to sickness absence in 2011, a new report from the Office for National Statistics shows. This was a fall of 26% since 1993 despite an increase in total employment from around 25 million people to about 29 million people. The amount of time lost per worker was four and a half days in 2011 down from just over seven days in 1993.

 

The most common reason given for sickness in 2011 was minor illnesses such as coughs, colds and flu. This type of illness tends to have short durations and the greatest number of working days lost was actually due to musculoskeletal problems (34.4 million days). This includes symptoms such as back, neck and upper limb problems. Around 27.5 million days were lost due to minor illnesses, such as coughs and colds, and 13.1 million days were lost to stress, depression and anxiety.

Women have consistently higher sickness absence rates than men but both sexes have seen a fall over the past 20 years. Men have gone from losing around 2.5% of their hours due to sickness in 1993 to around 1.5% in 2011. Over the same period women have seen a reduction in hours lost from 3.3% to 2.3%.

People are generally more likely to develop health problems at older ages, and sickness absence rates also increase with age. For workers aged 16 to 34, around 1.5% of hours were lost to sickness in 2011 compared with around 2.5% for workers aged 50 to 64. Workers aged 65 or over lost a lower percentage of hours to sickness because those with health problems are more likely to have left the labour market.

 

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