Mental Health responsible for over half of all sickness absences in the last year

Mental Health responsible for over half of all sickness absences in the last year Safety Forward

A total of 38.8 million working days were lost because of work-related illness and workplace injury in 2019/20, with mental health responsible for over half of all sickness absences in the last year, according to latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The annual HSE “Health and Safety at Work” statistics also concluded that Covid-19, while likely to have been a contributory factor, did not appear to be “the main driver of changes seen in the 2019/20 data”.

The rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety has increased in recent years, with workload, lack of support, violence, threats or bullying and changes at work, showing to be the estimated main cause of work-related stress, depression or anxiety. Industries with higher than average rates of stress, depression or anxiety, are shown to be electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply, closely followed by public admin/defence and human health/social work sectors.

17.9 million working days were lost due to work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2019/2020, with over 828,000 workers suffering with either a new or long standing condition.

While we recognise the cost of mental ill-health is not merely a financial issue, calculating the costs of mental health problems can be persuasive when making the case for investment in preventing them, as over £16.2 billion has been lost annually due to costs of ill health and work related injuries. Good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand and there is strong evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive and active in reducing sickness absences. Addressing wellbeing at work also increases productivity by as much as 12%.

Although mental health is responsible for over half of all sickness absences in the last year, the recent report also hi-lighted the need for all aspects of health and safety at work to be covered. When it came to musculoskeletal disorders, 480,000 workers were suffering from these conditions, with 152,000 new cases in the past year. MSKs accounted for 8.9 million of the total of working days lost. Manual handling, awkward or tiring positions and keyboard or repetitive actions were the main causes of musculoskeletal disorders, the HSE report found.

Occupational lung diseases also accounted for around 12,000 of the 13,000 total annual deaths estimated to be linked to past exposures at work, with 174 new cases of occupational asthma seen by chest physicians in 2019, showing strong evidence of an increase in the rate of new cases over recent years.

Sadly, 111 workers lost their life to workplace injuries, with over 693,000 employees suffering a non fatal injury. The most common kind of injury was a slips, trips or falls on the same level, with handling, lifting or carrying not far behind. 11% of injuries were also caused by being struck by a moving object, with 8% falling from heights.

The HSE report shows how imperative it is to ensure a safe environment at work. For further information on how Safety Forward can advise you and assist in various procedures and training programmes, please contact us here.