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The changing face of ill health

02 June 2024
Volume 29 · Issue 6

The recently published economic inactivity rate (22.2%) for December 2023 to February 2024 for those aged 16-64 years of age is concerning: it has risen in the last quarter and is above estimates based on last year (December 2022-February 2023) (Office for National Statistics [ONS], 2024). In February 2024, there were approximately 2.83 million people with long-term sickness not working, in comparison to 1.97 million people not working for this reason in 2019. Before 2022, the previous peak in long-term sickness causing economic inactivity had been in October 2001, but the main reason at that time for not working was because of people looking after family members. Since December 2021, long-term sickness has been the main reason for economic inactivity and in December 2023 people being long-term sick accounted for 30.2% of those who were economically inactive (Clark, 2024). Although the reasons why long-term sickness has increased are unclear, it has been noted that onwards from 2022, mental health issues including anxiety and depression, are increasingly cited among the long-term health conditions, alongside long COVID (Clark, 2024). Importantly, it seems that long-term sickness is increasing more in younger people (16-34 years) compared to those aged 35-49 years, although the majority of long-term sickness continues to be seen in those aged 50 years or more.

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