One in ten young people too sick to work full-time


One in ten young people are too sick to work full-time, a new report has revealed, with mental health conditions the most common cause.

More than 1.1 million of Britain’s 16- to 34-year-olds say they have a long-term health condition that “limits” how much they can work, with two in five citing a mental health issue.

This is double the number of young workers claiming to have a long-term illness compared to 10 years ago, when the figure was around 550,000, according to analysis of Office for National Statistic (ONS) data by the Health Foundation think tank.

It means there are now as many workers aged under 35 with a “work-limiting condition” as there were for those aged 45-54 a decade ago.

The Health Foundation says a work-limiting health condition is a chronic condition lasting longer than 12 months that affects the kind or amount of paid work an individual can do.

It said the conditions include depression, bad nerves, anxiety, phobias, panic disorders, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, heart problems and other chronic or progressive illnesses.

The rise of reported long-term conditions in the under-35s is so great that the age group is now equally likely to have one as those aged 35 to 44.

Older people are still most likely to suffer with a chronic condition, and the overall number of workers reporting an illness has risen by 1.4 million to 3.7 million.

The most common health issues reported were musculoskeletal chronic conditions, but among the youngest workers mental health was the biggest burden, tripling since 2013.

Two in five of the under-35s with a work-limiting illness reported a mental health condition, more than double any other cause.

‘Significant problem’

Dr Jennifer Dixon, the chief executive of the Health Foundation, said the millions of people either not working or undertaking limited work because of ill health was “a significant problem”.

“The impact of poor health on individuals and their families, whether they are in work or not, is considerable,” she said.

“And for the country poor health in the working age population will drag down productivity, the economy and add a huge avoidable burden on public services and employers.”

The analysis also highlighted an earnings gap of £2.50 per hour on average between those working full-time and those who could not because of a health condition.

It comes after Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, unveiled plans to remove benefits for those who are unemployed and able to work, but not actively seeking employment for 18 months.

The number of people unemployed because of a health condition is 2.6 million, up by half a million or almost 25 per cent since the pandemic.