Vitality survey suggests £138bn a year lost through ill health at work

A survey by health and life insurer Vitality has estimated that poor health is costing UK businesses a staggering £138bn each year in absence and lost productivity.

According to the findings, which were part of Vitality’s 2023 Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey, UK workers lose an average of 6.1 days per year due to formal absence but also lose nearly one day per week (43.6 days annually) due to various health issues, including musculoskeletal conditions, depression, and poor sleep quality, which impact their productivity.

Mental health issues are the primary driver of lost productivity. Individuals at risk of depression, fatigue, and burnout experience 151%, 141%, and 120% more lost productive days, respectively. Physical health issues such as poor diet, obesity, musculoskeletal conditions, and lack of physical activity also have a significant impact – increasing lost time by 14%, 54%, and 28%, respectively.

The survey results also suggest a generational divide, with workers under 30 losing an average of 59.7 days per year compared to 36.3 days in the over 50s.  Despite reporting better physical health, the younger demographic reported higher levels of mental health concerns, including burnout (17%), depression (14.6%), and fatigue (55.6%).

According to the survey, employees feel unsupported by workplace culture. One in five believe their manager doesn’t care about their health, and those earning less than £30,000 per annum are 86% more likely to feel unsupported than their higher-earning counterparts.

Companies are actively addressing these concerns, offering an average of 47 interventions to tackle health issues. However, only 25% of individuals surveyed reported using the measures offered by their employer.

Vitality CEO Neville Koopowitz said: ‘Our research clearly shows the impact of health and wellbeing on productivity in the UK, and the implications for the UK economy are concerning.

‘The data highlights the complexity of the problem facing UK employers, but also the opportunity for benefit if it can be addressed. Businesses must recognise the importance and impact of facilitating a healthy workplace, one that acknowledges employees’ mental and physical health needs. Action needs to be meaningful and informed, and employees need to feel that their wellbeing matters and be educated and encouraged to use the support available. If health at work is properly managed, business and the wider economy stand to gain significantly.’