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The Leading Causes of Workplace Absence in the UK: Facts and Statistics

In the UK, stress, depression, and anxiety now represent 49% of all work-related ill health, leading to 17.1 million of the 35.2 million working days lost in 2022/23. This significant trend highlights the urgent need for addressing mental health in the workplace. Our latest article delves into these startling figures, revealing the growing impact of mental health issues on UK industries.

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The landscape of workplace absence in the United Kingdom has undergone significant changes in recent years. The Labour Force Survey of 2022/23 unveils some critical insights, highlighting a worrying trend in the causes and duration of absences. This article delves into these findings, offering a comprehensive overview of the current state of workplace absences in the UK.

35.2 Million Working Days Lost Due to Injury or Ill Health

According to the Labour Force Survey, there were a staggering 35.2 million working days lost in the UK in 2022/23 due to workplace injury or ill health.

A closer look at these numbers reveals a concerning disparity: while 31.5 million days were lost due to work-related ill-health, only 3.7 million days were attributed to injuries. 17.1 million working days were lost due to stress, depression or anxiety.

This disparity underscores a troubling trend where conditions leading to workplace absences often develop over time and can remain unnoticed for prolonged periods.

Working days lost through injury or ill-health


What are the main causes of Workplace Absences?

Two primary health issues dominate the landscape of work-related absences: stress, depression, or anxiety, and musculoskeletal disorders. Together, they accounted for the majority of days lost due to work-related ill health in 2022/23, with 17.1 million and 6.6 million days lost, respectively.

While musculoskeletal conditions, accounting for about a quarter of all self-reported work-related ill health, have shown a decrease in incidence rates (from around 2,000 per 100,000 workers in the early 2000s to approximately 1,500 in recent years), mental health conditions present a contrasting trend.

Instances of stress, depression, or anxiety have escalated, rising from around 1,500 out of every 100,000 workers in the early 2000s to over 2,500 in the latest figures.

Stress Is Now The Leading Cause of Work-Related Ill Health

The increasing trend of absence due to work-related Stress, Depression or Anxiety mean it is now the main reason why someone will need time off work.

In fact, according to the latest data, Stress, Depression and Anxiety account for 49% of all work-related ill health. This affects a total of 875,000 workers with 338,000 new cases in the last reporting year.

The worst affected industries for Stress, Depression or Anxiety are Human Health and Social Work, Public Admin and Defence workers, and those working in Education.

Ailment Per 100,000 Workers
All Illness 5,250
Stress, Depression or Anxiety 2,590
Non-Fatal Injuries 1,750
Musculoskeletal Conditions 1,400
Occupational Lung Disease 130


Average Duration of Absences:

Each worker who took time off work due to injury or ill health was away from work for an average of 15.8 days. The average duration of absence varies significantly among different causes:

  • Injuries: 6.6 days
  • Musculoskeletal disorders: 13.9 days
  • Ill health cases: 17.8 days
  • Stress, depression, or anxiety: 19.6 days

This data indicates that mental health conditions, particularly stress, depression, or anxiety, lead to longer periods of absence compared to physical injuries or disorders.


These statistics paint a clear picture: mental health issues, especially stress, depression, and anxiety, have become the leading cause of workplace absences in Great Britain.

This shift signals a need for a deeper understanding and a more proactive approach in addressing mental health in the workplace. Employers and policymakers must recognise the rising impact of mental health conditions and adapt their strategies and support systems to mitigate this growing challenge.

The data not only highlights the changing nature of workplace health but also underscores the importance of mental well-being in the professional realm.





Richard O'Connor's Headshot

Richard O'Connor is a Director at First Mats. He has deep knowledge in areas like Manufacturing, Warehousing, Marine, and Health & Safety. Richard's insights have been featured in well-known publications such as Bloomberg Business, The Sun, and Reader's Digest. His blend of industry expertise and passion for sharing makes him a sought-after voice in his fields.

Contact Richard

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