A recent study conducted by Vitality, the health and life insurer, reveals that poor health among British workers is responsible for a staggering £138.3 billion loss to the UK economy each year.

The study, part of the 2023 Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey, underscores the significant impact of health issues on both employee well-being and national productivity.

The research indicates that British businesses lose an average of 49.7 days per employee annually due to poor health, translating to the substantial economic loss.

Musculoskeletal conditions, depression, and poor sleep quality emerge as the primary culprits affecting productivity across the UK.

According to Vitality’s findings, UK workers are losing an average of 6.1 days per year due to formal absence, with the majority of lost working hours stemming from employees not working efficiently due to health-related issues. Mental and physical health problems, such as musculoskeletal conditions, depression, and poor sleep quality, result in employees losing nearly one day per week (43.6 days annually).

A shift away from the impact of Covid-19

The study highlights a positive shift from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on UK productivity. In 2023, reduced levels of burnout (27.1% lower), job dissatisfaction (10.6% lower), and improved relaxation for home-workers (43% lower) are observed.

Analysing the impact of different health conditions on workplace productivity, mental health issues emerge as the most significant contributor to reduced efficiency. Those at risk of depression, fatigue, and burnout lose 151 percent, 141 percent, and 120 percent more productive days, respectively, compared to their healthier counterparts. Physical health issues, such as poor diet, obesity, musculoskeletal conditions, and lack of physical activity, also contribute significantly, increasing lost time by 14 percent, 54 percent, and 28 percent, respectively.

What about productivity?

The study reveals a generational divide in the impact of health on productivity, with those under 30 losing an average of 59.7 days per year compared to those over 50 who lose an average of 36.3 days a year – a 64 percent difference. Despite reporting better physical health, younger employees exhibit higher levels of mental health concerns, including burnout (17.0%), depression (14.6%), and fatigue (55.6%).

Surprisingly, the study finds that despite the evident correlation between health and productivity, employees feel their workplace culture does not adequately support their well-being.

One in five employees feels their manager does not care about their health, with lower earners being 86 percent more likely to feel unsupported compared to their higher-earning colleagues.

What can employers do to help?

Companies are making efforts to address this issue, offering an average of 47 health interventions, yet only 25 percent of surveyed individuals reported utilising these measures. The study emphasises the need for a targeted approach to ensure both employees and employers benefit from a healthy workforce.

Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality, stated, “Our research clearly shows the impact of health and wellbeing on productivity in the UK, and the implications for the UK economy are concerning. Businesses must recognise the importance and impact of facilitating a healthy workplace, one that acknowledges employees’ mental and physical health needs.” Koopowitz emphasises the need for meaningful action, education, and support to address the complex challenges facing UK employers and ultimately benefit both businesses and the wider economy.





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.