Ageing workers and chronic disease pose threat to future of British workers

Ageing workers and chronic disease pose threat to future of British workers

By 2030, an ageing workforce and higher rates of chronic disease among employees will pose a serious threat to the productivity of British businesses, according to a new report from health and care company Bupa. In the next 20 years, the number of workers with diabetes or respiratory diseases, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, will increase by at least seven percent to over four million, while the rate of mental illness in the workforce will rise by five percent to affect 4.2 million workers. In the same period, the average age of the workforce will reach 43, while 68 will become the average age of retirement by 2050. Rates of major disease in the workforce will escalate through the impact of ageing alone, with musculoskeletal disease increasing by eight percent to impact more than seven million people in the working age population, while heart disease will rise by 11 percent to affect over a million. Unless addressed, Bupa warns the worsening health of the workforce will damage the long-term productivity of British companies large and small.

The Bupa report, Healthy Work, published in partnership with The Work Foundationš, The Oxford Health Alliance˛ and RAND Europeł, brings together for the first time more than 200 pieces of research to provide in-depth insight into how the health of British workers will change over the next 20 years. It comes as the UK Government encourages British businesses to look after the health of their employees, following a review of the health of the working population by Dame Carol Black in 2008, which found that ill-health in the working-age population is already costing Britain over Ł100 billion a year.

Dr Natalie-Jane Macdonald, managing director for Bupa UK Health Insurance, said: “For the first time, we have a clear picture of the major health issues that will affect British workers over the next 20 years. We know they will be older and sicker, with millions working with long-term diseases such as diabetes and COPD. Our report provides British businesses with an early warning of how the health needs of workers will change and importantly, it gives them time to take action to keep their employees healthy, productive and at work. The commercial benefits of taking action on workplace health are clear as healthy employees can be nearly three times more productive than those in poor health.”

Christine Hancock, director, The Oxford Health Alliance, said: “As most people spend at least a third of their time at work, the workplace can make a real difference to health and healthy living. This report signals clearly to British businesses that unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, such as poor diet, smoking and lack of physical activity, will be a major factor driving up long-term diseases in the working population over the next 20 years. The good news is that these behaviours can all be easily and effectively tackled in the workplace, by encouraging and influencing change.”

Bupa’s Healthy Work report is the first phase of a two-part study and is designed to provide a clear insight into how the health of the nation�s workforce will change in the future. The second phase of the Bupa study is due out later this year and will identify and provide clear evidence of workplace health services that will help companies tackle the health issues of the future. It will also advise how to increase the quantity and quality of workplace health for individuals, the NHS and the Government.

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