The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported that the average person took a total of 4.4 days off sick in 2013, compared to a total of 7.2 days in 1993. While the numbers of sick days are falling in general, the amount of days off due to stress and depression is rising.
It is thought that the reduction in sick days could initially be linked to a fear of job loss during the recession, however the number of sick days were seen to be falling during the run-up to the recession too.
The most common reasons for not going to work in 2013 were musculoskeletal conditions such as neck and back pain (leading to 31 million days off), while minor illnesses like coughs and colds claimed 27 million days sick. Anxiety, depression and stress accounted for 15 million sick days, up from 11.8 million in 2010.
Dr John Philpott, director of The Jobs Economist, has said that the scale of mental health problems could be higher due to employees lying about the nature of their absence.
“While common mental health problems account for only 8% of all working days lost to sickness absence, the disturbing upward trend indicates that the UK workforce is becoming increasingly stressed out, with pressure from bosses to get the job done ever more intense at a time when falling real wages mean most workers are struggling to make ends meet.”
Dr Philpott went on to say that critics were wrong to dismiss such absence as a symptom of a ‘sickie culture’, and instead they should focus on excessively controlling management practices and the insecurity of labour market conditions, both of which are leading to more workers cracking under pressure.