New research conducted by personal injury experts at has uncovered a concerning trend in the UK workforce, with an average of 18 million days per year lost to mental health conditions.

The study analysed data from the Office for National Statistics’ sickness absence reports spanning 2018 to 2022, shedding light on demographics, common reasons for absenteeism, and strategies for maintaining health during winter commutes.

The findings reveal that the UK workforce loses a staggering 146.6 million days annually due to sickness, equivalent to almost a full working week per employee. As the nation enters January, a critical period marked by flu season and post-holiday blues, employers pay heightened attention to absences.

Notably, minor illnesses such as coughs, colds, and flu are the primary culprits, accounting for 22.5 percent of the total days lost annually.

However, as Blue Monday approaches, a day often associated with increased feelings of sadness and depression, mental health conditions contribute significantly, comprising 12 percent of the working days lost, totalling 18 million days per year.

Which age demographic take the most sick days?

The study also delved into demographic variations, revealing that workers aged 50 to 64 experience the highest number of lost days, averaging 6.1 days per worker annually. In contrast, the 16 to 24 age group exhibits a 65.2 percent lower rate, with an estimated 2.7 days lost per worker each year.

Gender disparities are evident, as women report a 49.4 percent higher rate of calling in sick compared to men, with 2.6 percent of their working days lost each year. Regional differences are also pronounced, with the North-East exhibiting the highest sickness absence rate, losing 5.1 days per worker annually – a 48 percent increase since 2018.

Wales emerges as the country with the highest average annual days lost per worker (5.9), while Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland experience considerably lower rates.

What harm do sick days cause?

Speaking on the findings, a spokesperson for emphasised the detrimental effects of sick days on both employees and companies. Frequent absences due to illness can lead to increased stress and workload for employees, negatively impacting job satisfaction and overall well-being. From the company’s perspective, reduced workforce attendance can result in productivity losses and delayed project timelines.

In response to the study’s findings, experts offer five strategies to maintain health during winter commutes, including hand hygiene, staying hydrated, boosting immunity, layering clothing, and maintaining personal space.


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Note: Due to the Coronavirus pandemic affecting sickness in the workforce, numbers have been averaged for accuracy.






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 the 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.