Over half a million more workers aged 50 and over are on long-term sick

More than half a million more people are out of work due to chronic conditions than before the pandemic, according to research. And three out of five of those classed as economically inactive due to long-term sickness are 50 or over.

Rest Less, a website which offers advice and support to older people, said there are 1.6 million over-50s out of work due to long-term sickness, a 20 percent rise in the three years from July to September 2019 to July to September 2022.

More than one in three economically inactive 50 to 64-year-olds are out of work due to long-term sickness, according to the study, based on official data.

Rest Less’s analysis showed that for 50 to 64-year-olds, the main reason for economic inactivity was long-term sickness, followed by retirement and looking after family.

Stuart Lewis, Chief Executive, said: “Economic inactivity due to long-term sickness is something the Government is finally taking seriously, and action is well overdue.

“A rise in long-term ill health has significantly reduced the size of the UK’s potential workforce amongst all ages since the pandemic, but it is a particularly large driver of the huge reduction in available workers in their 50s and 60s.

“Of the 2.8 million people out of work due to long-term sickness, nearly 60 percent are aged over 50.

“Not only is this a national health issue with thousands of people suffering silently, but it’s increasingly an economic issue too – not least because many of these people want to work in some capacity, if the right opportunities were available to them.

“It’s time to provide targeted support to struggling businesses to enable them to offer more flexible working opportunities as well as high-quality training programmes to ensure workers of all ages can continue to develop their career.”

Kim Chaplain of the Centre for Ageing Better, commented: “We welcome the increased political focus on the issue of economic inactivity among people over 50.

“These new stats make clear that long-term sickness is part of the challenge that the Government needs to find solutions to.

“We’d like to see a more responsive joined-up system of support linking health and employment support tailored to the needs of older workers.”


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