Poor mental health now accounts for half of all work-related illnesses, stats show

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Is your job making you ill? Today’s statistics would appear to offer a negative perspective on the impact that work is having on working people, especially in certain sectors.

According to official statistics released today by HSE, stress, anxiety and depression account for 51 per cent of all work-related ill health cases. Further, 55 per cent of all working days lost are due to work-related ill health.

The data shows that 17 million days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22. This equated to an average of 18.6 days lost per case.

17 million days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22. Photograph: iStock

Health and social workers (3,320 cases per 100,000 workers) and teachers (2,660 cases per 100,000 workers) all had “significantly higher rates” than the average for all industries for stress, said the report.

The annual data release follows provisional figures released in July, making the November statistics final. The data covers the period from April 2021 to March 2022.

In summary in 2021-2022 there were:

  • 8 million working people suffering from a work-related illness, of which
  • 914,000 workers suffering work-related stress, depression or anxiety
  • 477,000 workers suffering from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder
  • 123,000 workers suffering from COVID-19 which they believe may have been from exposure to coronavirus at work

Although the pandemic has widely been reported to have worsened population wellbeing and mental health, the rise in poor mental health pre-dates the pandemic says HSE. The current rate of work-related mental health is higher than the 2018/19 pre-coronavirus levels.

Commenting, Liz Goodwill, Head of the Work Related Stress and Mental Health Policy Team at HSE, who was speaking on the one-year anniversary of HSE’s Working Minds campaign said: “When we launched [the campaign] we were under no illusion that stress, anxiety and depression were on the rise in the UK.”

Goodwill said that employers must recognise their legal duty to prevent work-related stress to support good mental health in the workplace. “Psychosocial risks [must be] treated the same as physical ones,” she said.

The data on safety shows that 123 workers were killed in work-related accidents, a decrease of 22 fatalities from 2020/21 when 145 workers were killed. However, in statistical terms the number of fatalities has remained broadly level over most of the last decade. A total of 565,000 working people sustained an injury at work.

A spokesperson from health and safety software provider, Intelex said: “Today’s results show there is still a considerable amount of work to do in improving workplace safety in the UK,” they said, adding that ‘technology can play a ‘central role in putting safety at the heart of workplace culture.’

Health and safety statistics here


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