Here's Proof We're All Officially Getting Poorer (And Sicker)

People who work in the UK are getting “poorer and sicker”, according to a new report – confirming all of our worst fears about how we’re all coping right now.

The IPPR think-tank (the Institute for Public Policy Research) has found a link between the UK’s general wealth and health – and noticed that it all comes down to a shrinking workforce and growing NHS waiting lists.

Why are we so ill?

There’s no denying that we are getting sicker as a nation.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 185.6 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury, last in 2022 – the highest rate since records began in 1995.

Minor illnesses, including coughs, colds, flu and diarrhoea, explained 29.3% of absences from work – and that’s much more than the total number of Covid absences.

The report also noted that the total number of chronic health conditions started to increase even before Covid hit – and now nearly a third of working population are chronically ill.

General poor health was to blame for more than half of the 3.3 million people who left paid employment in five years prior to the pandemic.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has also warned that five million will be receiving welfare payments because of a health condition in the next five years.

The IPPR pointed out that alongside growing waiting lists and an ageing population has meant many illnesses get worse and turn chronic as a result.

Why does being sicker mean we are poorer?

The report has found that getting a mental health illness is associated with your earnings declining by £2,200 per year.

General ill health also has a knock-on effect on the earnings of family members, according to IPPR.

This could be because people lose their jobs and others because they have to change their jobs so the overall workforce is smaller.

The IPPR explained: “This is just one route by which health impacts on the economy.

“Lower business spend on overheads, business costs from sick days, lower production and the impact of short-term illness could be significant additions to this figure.”

Those on low incomes are particularly affected, as well, as the IPPR’s Professor Dame Sally Davies told BBC Radio 4 Today programme. She said:  “Unfortunately those on the lower incomes are more prone to getting illnesses, too, and they’re not getting the best out of the NHS, so that multiples.”

And this general level of illness means the UK has lost out on the GDP equivalent to 2% of GDP or £43 billion of output as a result.

The IPPR report explained: “The impact of poor health on earnings is not just a trend associated with the pandemic, but rather part of longer, unstudied trend of health’s impact on individual prosperity.”

How can we fix it?

The IPPR called on policymakers to “hardwire two ambitious new missions in law” and make the UK the healthiest country in the world within 30 years, noting that there are few preventative measures to look after Brits’ health.

The IPPR wants housing to be improved, pollution and access to healthy foods, to help improve everyone’s wellbeing.

Senior economist at IPPR, Carsten Jung, said: “The idea behind an NHS free at the point of delivery was to stop the cost of illness ruining people’s lives. But our analysis shows that the cost of sickness is still huge.”