Health statistics and exhaustion

While we are focused on helping older workers back to the workforce, we mustn’t neglect the generation below them who need support to stop them dropping out.

women sleeping on laptop


A survey out this week on older workers dropping out of the workforce had some interesting statistics.  PwC’s Golden Age Index report shows that people in the UK who are over 55 are more likely to have left work and not returned than those in other G7 countries. Health is a key issue. But an accompanying survey of 1,000 people finds that the age cohort that is suffering the most from long-term sickness is in fact the 35-44 age group, followed by the 55-64 and 65+ age groups. In separate research by PwC for The Times Health Commission, two in five businesses (38%) say they have seen an increase in the number of employees taking long term sick leave due to mental health-related illness since the pandemic.

There is no straight line between the different statistics, but a recent ONS report which looks at age and long-term sickness found people aged 35 to 49 had seen the highest increase rate in mental illness and nervous disorders of any age group [up 24%] since 2019, although older people were more likely to complain of mental illness. Nevertheless, the levels of depression and anxiety in 35 to 49 year olds had declined, unlike young people’s which rose by 12%.

It’s not so surprising that 35+ year olds are struggling when you look at what they were coping with over the pandemic and what they are coping with now.  They often have young families and many have been affected by the erosion of working age benefits which has forced those on the lowest incomes to food banks. Some are skipping meals, with an impact both on their mental and physical health. Wealthier parents may have taken on a mortgage and have been hit by rising interest rates; others may be hit by them anyway due to the knock-on impact on rents. People aged 35+ [and younger] who have families are certainly significantly affected by rising inflation, given the fact that they have to provide for themselves and their children and they face ever-increasing childcare costs, which take hundreds of pounds out of their pocket every month.

Either that or they have found their own ways to lower or eradicate childcare costs by putting together an often complicated childcare plan, built on family and friends, which has the potential to fall through at any time, requiring stressful back-up options. What’s more many in their late 30s and early 40s are part of the sandwich generation, coping with caring commitments for both children/teens [possibly with mental health issues] and their own parents at a time of a health and social care crisis. That’s an awful lot to carry.

There has been a lot of focus of late on supporting older workers and helping to attract them back to the workplace, but we also need to stop people from dropping out in the first place and that means understanding and, as far as possible, easing all the strains that the generation below them are facing.

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