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Long-term sickness costing UK economy GBP 43 bn a year, finds study

"UK economy faces a series of overlapping crises: low productivity, low growth, widening inequality and an historic fall in living standards."

healthcare, long-term sickness, hospitalization, hospital

Photo: Bloomberg

Bloomberg

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By Elina Ganatra

Long-term sickness is costing the UK economy £43 billion ($53.6 billion) a year, or about 2% of gross domestic product, according to a study that adds to pressure for government action.

The Institute for Public Policy Research said each new illness costs people as much as £2,200 in annual earnings by forcing them to resign or work less.

The findings are the latest to identify health as one of the factors dragging down the UK economy, which the Bank of England says may struggle to produce any growth over the next year in what may be one of the longest slumps on record. Long-term sickness since the pandemic is one of the main reasons people cite for dropping out of the workforce, which uniquely among the Group of Seven nations is smaller than it was when Covid-19 struck.

“Better health is the best medicine for our economic malaise,” Chris Thomas, head of the IPPR’s commission on health and prosperity, said in a statement released Thursday. “Our economy faces a series of overlapping crises: low productivity, low growth, widening inequality and an historic fall in living standards.”

The London-based think tank found that improvements in health could increase earnings and, by boosting women’s wages twice as much as men’s, narrow the gender pay gap.

Recent figures show the economic impact of illness in the UK is still increasing. Data from the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday showed working hours lost to sickness rose 2.6% in 2022, the highest since 2004. 

Official statistics on Wednesday showed the UK’s sickness absence rate — the percentage of working hours lost — rose to 2.6% in 2022 as a whole. That’s the highest it’s been since 2004.

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First Published: Apr 27 2023 | 8:31 AM IST

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