Research: 18 million days ‘lost’ at work to mental health 

New research has revealed that 18 million days per year, on average, are lost at work to mental health conditions.

mental health

The research, conducted by, analysed the Office for National Statistics’ sickness absence data from 2018 – 2022 to reveal which demographics are most likely to miss work, and identify the most common reasons for doing so.  

Every year, the UK workforce loses on average 146.6 million days due to sickness, which equates to approximately 4.5 days per worker – or almost a full working week.  

In January employers pay particular attention to absences as workers contend with flu season, as well as post-holiday blues and holiday-related illnesses.   

The study identified the main reasons workers call in sick – with minor illnesses like coughs and colds proving the main cause. An average of 33 million days is lost per year due to minor illnesses.   

The data also found that 12% of the working days lost were due to mental health conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety – making this 18 million days per year, on average.

On the other end of the scale, an average of 7.4 million days were lost with workers preferring not to give a reason.

Reason Given For Sickness    Number of Days Lost    (Millions)Percentage of Days Lost  
Minor Illness                  33.0  22.5%  
Musculoskeletal                  24.8  17.2%  
Other                  30.5  20.3%  
Mental Health                  18.0  12.0%  
Gastrointestinal                    8.2  5.7%  
Respiratory                    8.4  5.5%  
Eye / Ear / Nose/   Mouth / Dental                    4.3  3.0%  
Genito-Urinary                    3.2  2.2%  
Heart, Blood Pressure, Circulation                    4.9  3.3%  
Headaches and Migraines                    3.9  2.7%  
No Reason Given                    7.4  5.1%  

The study also found that workers aged between 50 and 64 lose more days at work than any other age group, with an average of 56.3 million total days lost per year. Per worker, this works out to approximately 6.1 lost days annually.    

Interestingly, the 16 to 24 age group have only lost an estimated 10.2 million days per year – which is 65.2% lower than the average. This equals 2.7 days lost per worker each year.  

With regards to gender, women were found to call in sick for 2.6% of their working days a year – which is a 49.4% increase compared to men.        

And some regions are more likely to call in sick than others, the data shows, with workers in the North-East reporting the highest sickness absence rate.   

The region – which covers County Durham, Northumberland, Tyne-and-Wear, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, and Sunderland – loses an average of 5.1 days per worker annually. This equates to approximately 6.2 million days yearly – a 48% increase compared to 2018. 

The East Midlands is second most likely to call in sick, with 4.9 days lost per worker annually. This equates to 11.4 million days lost each year, with the region comprising Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, and Rutland.  

Third is Yorkshire and The Humberside with an annual average of 4.8 days lost per worker. This area includes Bradford, Calderdale, Doncaster, Hull, Leeds, North Lincolnshire, Sheffield, Wakefield and York. This equates to a loss of 12.5 million days each year.   

Interestingly, workers in Wales took more days off than any other UK country. Wales loses approximately 5.9 days per worker each year, while Scotland (4.8), England (4.4), and Northern Ireland (4.4) lose considerably less. 

The data was gathered from:-

Register or log in to get started in your organisation

Get our EDI news and guides straight to your inbox

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Login or Sign Up

You'll need an Empower Up members account to access this awesome content.

Our members get free access to:

Don't have an account? Sign up