Record numbers of British workers are absent from their jobs due to mental health problems. It’s happening right when “the economy needs them the most.” While this is nothing new, it’s dangerously intensifying since the arrival of Covid.
UK’s health is worsening
Off sick reasons, source: finance.yahoo.com
Long-term health problems are keeping an alarming number of young people of working age out of the workforce, despite the country’s bleak economic outlook, falling real wages, and weakening National Health Service.
According to Yahoo Finance, there was a 29% increase in the number of people aged 16 to 24 who cited long-term illness as a reason for their economic inactivity. There’s also a 42% increase in the number of people aged 25 to 34 who gave the same reason.
Afflicted youth, source: finance.yahoo.com
This information pertains to the second quarter of 2022 and it’s not just young people. Among adults aged 50 to 54, stress at work was cited as the leading cause of inactivity. The percentage of economically inactive people aged 16 and higher who are dealing with mental health issues has allegedly risen by 10% since before the pandemic.
Increasing rates of mental health disorders and youth unemployment have direct economic consequences for Britain. It’s fuelling wage wars between businesses, which is putting upward pressure on inflation, which is already near a four-decade high.
In the meantime, the British pound has been on the rollercoaster, falling 23% against the US dollar in the first three quarters of 2022. However, it bounced back up by 15% in the last three months.
GBP/USD daily chart, source: tradingview.com, author’s analysis
Moreover, the data show a worrying fall in the health of the nation as a whole, with the youngest workers facing a recession and wages failing to keep up with double-digit inflation. But this is not all because of Covid. Industry experts claim this has been building up over the past ten years.
Resolution Foundation economist Louise Murphy warned that youth health had been deteriorating quite dramatically even before the pandemic hit. However, the problem has worsened since Covid arrived and accelerated even further.
Three major forces behind these problems are cited as excessive usage of social media, being out of school, and exposure to grumpy home atmospheres. Reportedly, young adults aged 20-29 who were out of the workforce due to illness were 50% more likely to report a mental health problem than older adults of working age.
Mental health issues are mainly found among men. Currently, the environment is quite disturbing for young people due to factors such as the cost of living crisis, the conflict in Ukraine, and political uncertainty.