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15 November 2022

Sick Britain: how economic inactivity has surged

A record 2.5 million people are not looking for work because they suffer from long-term sickness.

By Giacomo Boscaini-Gilroy

A record-breaking 2.5 million people are not looking for work because they suffer from long-term sickness, according to data published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Since 2019 the number has risen by a quarter due to several factors, many of which are linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. For instance, the number of patients on NHS waiting lists has risen, and the time they have to wait has jumped from eight weeks at the start of 2020 to 14 weeks by September 2022. These people are also more susceptible to developing other health issues.

Analysis by the ONS finds that causes of ill health among those not looking for work are varied, with mental illness, back problems and other problems, including Covid-19, all increasing by between 20 to 40 per cent. Additionally, the number of people who have mental health issues caused by or exacerbated by work has doubled.

[See also: Where have all the workers gone?]

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