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Ill-health at work set to increase considerably

In the next 20 years, the number of workers with diabetes or respiratory diseases, like asthma, will increase by at least 7% to over four million, while the rate of mental illness in the workforce will rise by 5% to affect 4.2 million workers.

These predictions are among the conclusions of a new study put together by private health company Bupa in partnership with The Work Foundation, The Oxford Health Alliance and RAND Europe.

By 2030, an ageing workforce and higher rates of chronic disease among employees will pose a serious threat to the productivity of British businesses, according to the report. The average age of the workforce will reach 43. It is estimated that 68 will become the average age of retirement by 2050.

Musculoskeletal disease will increase by 8% to impact more than seven million people in the working age population, while heart disease will rise by 11% to affect over a million.

Planning and policy implications

The report, entitled Healthy Work, brings together more than 200 pieces of research to provide in-depth insight into how the health of British workers will change over the next 20 years. It has enormous implications for government planning and policy. A review by Dame Carol Black in 2008 found that ill-health in the working-age population is already costing Britain over £100 billion a year.

Christine Hancock, director of The Oxford Health Alliance, said: 'As most people spend at least a third of their time at work, the workplace can make a real difference to health and healthy living. This report signals clearly to British businesses that unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, such as poor diet, smoking and lack of physical activity, will be a major factor driving up long-term diseases in the working population over the next 20 years. The good news is that these behaviours can all be easily and effectively tackled in the workplace, by encouraging and influencing change.'

MHF CEO Peter Baker stressed that there is plenty employers can do to improve the health of their workforce. He said: 'Given that men are almost three times as likely to die as women while still of working age and that men will respond to workplace-based initiatives, it is vital that employers and the NHS now work together to develop the workplace as a setting for men's health activity. MHF's work with Royal Mail, BT, Arriva and other employers shows just how much can be achieved, benefitting men but also saving money by boosting productivity and cutting sickness absence.'

Bupa say their Healthy Work report is the first phase of a two-part study designed to provide a clear insight into how the health of the nation's workforce will change in the future. The second phase is due out later this year and will identify and provide clear evidence of workplace health services that will help companies tackle the health issues of the future.

Page created on April 6th, 2009

Page updated on December 1st, 2009