New research conducted by personal injury experts has shed light on the correlation between age and work absences, showing that employees aged between 50 and 64 are 125.9 percent more likely to call in sick compared to their 16 to 24-year-old counterparts.

The study delved into the sickness absence data from the Office for National Statistics spanning the years 2018 to 2022, aiming to uncover the demographics most prone to missing work and the prevalent reasons behind these absences.

The UK workforce collectively loses an average of 146.6 million days annually due to sickness, equivalent to nearly a full working week per employee.

As the flu season and post-holiday blues hit in January, employers pay heightened attention to absences.

The research found that the age group between 50 and 64 experiences the highest number of days lost at work, averaging 56.4 million days per year or 6.1 days per worker annually.

In contrast, the 16 to 24 age group loses significantly fewer days, with an estimated 10.2 million days annually, translating to 2.7 days per worker each year.

Here is a breakdown of average annual days lost per age group:

  • 16-24: 10.3 million days (2.7 days per worker)
  • 25-34: 27.3 million days (3.4 days per worker)
  • 35-49: 47.3 million days (4.3 days per worker)
  • 50-64: 56.4 million days (6.1 days per worker)
  • 65+: 5.4 million days (4.1 days per worker)

Gender-wise, women were found to call in sick for 2.6 percent of their working days a year, a 49.4 percent increase compared to men.

The study not only pinpointed which age groups report the highest sick leave but also identified the primary reasons for calling in sick. Minor illnesses such as coughs and colds were the leading cause, accounting for an average of 33 million days lost annually.

As January brings Blue Monday, the data also highlighted that 12 percent of working days lost were attributed to mental health conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety.

Regional differences were also evident, with the North-East reporting the highest sickness absence rate, losing an average of 5.1 days per worker annually. The East Midlands and Yorkshire and The Humberside followed closely.

Wales emerged as the region with the highest number of days lost per worker each year (5.9 days), surpassing Scotland (4.8), England (4.4), and Northern Ireland (4.4).

A spokesperson for emphasised the detrimental effects of sick days on both workers and companies, affecting job satisfaction, well-being, productivity, and project timelines.

To combat winter-related health issues during commutes, experts recommend five strategies:

  • Hand Hygiene: Carry a travel-size hand sanitiser and use it regularly.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to support overall health and alleviate symptoms.
  • Boost Immunity: Maintain a balanced diet with a focus on fruits, vegetables, and immune-boosting foods.
  • Layer Clothing: Dress in layers to adjust to temperature changes during commutes.
  • Maintain Personal Space: Be mindful of personal space to minimise exposure to germs, especially when commuting on public transport.






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.