Stress Rises to Become Most Prevalent Work Illness

Work related stress has climbed to its highest rate in at least 16 years, according to statistics published by the Health & Safety Executive. Against a background of little year-to-year change in overall rates of occupational ill health, the proportion of people who reported experiencing working-related stress, depression or anxiety last year rose by 7% when compared to figures for 2015-16, reaching a rate of 1,610 per 1000,000 workers.

This makes stress the most common form of work related illness for the first time, overtaking musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), the rates of which have broadly fallen since the turn of the century. The data, released on 1st November 2017, comes from the annual Labour Force Survey, produced by the Office for National Statistics. It found that 526,000 people who had worked in the last 12 months had a work-related mental health condition, compared to 487,000 in 2015-16 and 442,000 in 2014-15.

Rates of work-related stress have moved erratically over the last 16 years – the period that the Health & Safety Executive figures cover. The incidence rate dropped to a low of 1,190 cases per 100,000 workers in 2005-06 and increased to 1,560 in 2013-14, the highest rate recorded until this year’s figures set a new peak. However, taken as a whole, the trend over the period since 2000 is one of slight increase.

Meanwhile, the number of working days lost to stress, depression and anxiety also increased by 7% last year, rising from 11.7 million days in 2015-16 to 12.5 million in 2016-17. When compared to 2014-15, the increase is even starker; there were 25% more days lost last year than two years earlier. The overall rate of people with some form of work-related illness fell very slightly last year. In general, the rate has also decreased over the course of the last 16 years.

In 2001-02, there were 4,870 cases of work related ill-health per 100,000 workers. However, over the last four years the rate has hovered around 4,000. In 2016-17, the rate recorded was 3,970. In total, 1.3 million people who have worked in the last 12 months have a work related illness.

Responding to the figures, Martin Temple, the Health & Safety Executive, said: “These latest figures should act as a spur to reduce the impact of ill-health and injury on Britain’s workforce and businesses and we cannot rest on our reputation”.

Source: Health & Safety at Work Magazine – December 2017

Image: Adobe Photo Stock


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