work-related ill health has been published by the Health and
Safety Executive. Self-reported work-related illness in
2003/04: Results from the Labour Force Survey, generally confirms
1998/99 and 2001/02. The main headline figures from the report
appeared November 2004; full results are now presented in this new
Important statistical note
The prevalence of an illness is the number of individuals suffering
from it at a given point in time (or period of time). In the SWI
survey, the prevalence is the count of people who have suffered from
the reported illness in the 12 months prior to their interview.
Prevalent cases may be long-standing, and have made their first
appearance years ago. The incidence of an illness counts the number
of new appearances of illness in a given period. In the SWI survey,
incidence is the number of cases where the affected person reported
that they were 'first aware' of the condition within the 12 months
preceding their interview. Prevalence can be thought of as a 'stock'
of illness, incidence as a 'flow' of new cases. Incidence rates are
calculated on the population working in the last 12 months;
prevalence rates may be calculated either on basis of the population
ever employed, or the population working in the last 12 months. The
data may also be analysed by occupational group, or by industry.
Trends since 2001/02
* The estimated prevalence (long standing as well as new cases) rate
of work-related illness was of a similar order in 2003/04 as in
* For people working in the last 12 months, the incidence (new cases)
rate of work-related illness in 2003/04 was lower than in 2001/02,
much of this due to a fall in musculoskeletal disorders, in
particular those which mainly affect the back.
* The estimated average number of annual working days lost per worker
due to work-related illness in 2003/04 was of a similar order to the
estimated rate in 2001/02.
Main findings for 2003/04
The headline figures previously released indicated that the estimated
prevalence of self-reported work-related illness in 2003/04 was 2.2
million, equating to 5.2% of people ever employed. An estimated 27%
of this total, 0.6 million people ever employed, were incident (new)
cases. Among people employed in the last 12 months, this equates to
an estimated incidence rate of 2.0%.
The estimated number of working days lost due to work-related illness
during the 12 month period was 29.8 million. On average, each person
suffering took an estimated 22 days off work in that 12 month period.
Averaged across the working population this represents an annual loss
of 1.3 days per worker.
Musculoskeletal disorders followed by stress, depression or anxiety
were by far the most commonly reported type of work-related illnesses
with corresponding prevalence estimates of 1.1 million and 0.6
million for people ever employed. The ranking was reversed for
incident cases, with an estimate of 0.2 million for musculoskeletal
disorders and 0.3 million for stress, depression or anxiety.
Furthermore, although the estimated annual working days lost were of
a similar order for the two conditions, the average annual days lost
per case was higher for stress, depression or anxiety (28 days) than
for musculoskeletal disorders (19 days).
This report provides a wealth of detailed information relating to
2003/04 for example:
* Males carried a higher estimated prevalence rate (for people who
have ever worked) of musculoskeletal disorders (3.0%) than females
(2.2%) whereas the corresponding estimated rates of stress,
depression or anxiety (1.3%) were the same. The gender-specific
incidence rates (for people working in the last 12 months) were
similar for musculoskeletal disorders (0.6% of males and 0.7% of
females), but for stress, depression or anxiety the rate for females
(1.0%) was higher than for males (0.7%).
* Estimated prevalence rates (for people employed in the last 12
months) were higher among employees than among the self-employed for
stress, depression or anxiety (1.4% of employees and 0.8% of the
self- employed). The opposite was true for musculoskeletal disorders
(1.5% of employees and 2.4% of the self-employed).
* Full-time workers carried higher estimated prevalence rates (for
people employed in the last 12 months) than part-time workers for
work-related musculoskeletal disorders (1.8% of full-time workers and
1.2% of part-time workers) and stress, depression or anxiety (1.5% of
full-time workers and 0.6% of part-time workers).
* Occupations with above average work-related illness prevalence
rates (for people employed in the last 12 months) included protective
service occupations (for example workers serving in police, fire
service and prison service) with an estimated rate of around 6.5%,
health and social welfare associate professionals (6.2%), skilled
construction and building trades (5.5%), teaching and research
professionals (5.1%) and skilled metal and electrical trades (4.8%).
The average work-related illness prevalence rate was 3.7%. Three of
these occupational groups (protective service occupations, health and
social welfare associate professionals and teaching and research
professionals) also carried above average incidence rates.
Furthermore, protective service occupations, along with process,
plant and machine operatives, carried above average annual days lost
* Industries with above average work-related prevalence rates (for
people employed in the last 12 months) of around an estimated 4.5%
included: health and social work; public administration and defence;
transport, storage and communication, construction and education.
* Public administration and defence and health and social work also
carried above average estimated incidence rates and average days lost
* Two broad occupational groups carried the highest estimated
prevalence rates of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (for
people working in the last 12 months) and accounted for a third of
the overall estimated prevalence of self-reported work-related
musculoskeletal disorders: skilled trades occupations (3.2%) and
process, plant and machine operatives (2.4%). The occupational
breakdown also identified health and social welfare associate
professionals with an above average estimated rate (2.9%).
* In line with the occupational breakdown, industries carrying above
average prevalence rates of musculoskeletal disorders (for people
working in the last 12 months) of around an estimated 2-3% were:
agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing; construction; health and
social work and transport, storage and communication.
* Occupations carrying above average estimated prevalence rates (for
people working in the last 12 months) of work-related stress,
depression or anxiety were: teaching and
research professionals with an estimated rate of around 2.7% and
business and public service professionals with an estimated rate of
around 2.3%. Corporate managers (2.1%), health and social welfare
associate professionals (2.0%) and business and public service
associate professionals (1.8%) also carried above average estimated
rates. These occupational groups together accounted for around half
the estimated prevalent cases of self-reported work-related stress,
depression or anxiety (for people employed in the last 12 months).
* Industry groups associated with above average estimated prevalence
rates of work-related stress, depression or anxiety (for people
employed in the last 12 months) largely reflected this occupational
distribution, showing estimated rates of around 2% in public
administration and defence, education and health and social work.
The report, Self-reported work-related illness in 2003/04: Results
from the Labour Force Survey, can be accessed at
The main headline figures from the report appeared in Health and
Safety Statistics Highlights 2003/04
www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/overall/hssh0304.pdf in November 2004.
1. The Health and Safety Executive commissioned a module of
questions in the winter 2003/04 Labour Force Survey, to gain a
view of work-related illness based on individuals' perceptions. The
LFS is a household survey, and is intended to be representative of
the UK population. This is the fifth survey of self-reported
work-related illness undertaken in conjunction with the UK LFS. The
Health and Safety Executive commissioned a survey in 1990
covering England and Wales, and one in 1995 covering Great Britain.
The European Union Statistical Office commissioned the
third in 1998/99. This included most member states, but the UK
coverage was restricted to people working in the past 12 months
rather than people ever employed (as in the previous two surveys).
The fourth survey was commissioned by HSE in 2001/02 covering people
ever employed in Great Britain. The surveysare known as SWI90,
SWI95, SWI98/99 and SWI01/02 (surveys of Self-reported Work-related
Illness). Results were published in 1993, 1998, 2001 and 2003.
2. Headline results from the new survey (SWI03/04) which covers
people ever employed in Great Britain, were published in Health and
Safety Statistics Highlights 2003/04, providing estimates of the
overall prevalence (including long standing as well as new cases) of
self-reported work-related illness in the last 12 months, of
incidence (new cases) in the same period and of annual working days
lost due to work-related illness. This report focuses on releasing
more detailed results by a range of demographic and
employment-related variables. Some comparisons of the latest results
with those from 2001/02 (which have been revised as a result of the
2001 Census) are also presented.
3. Results are based on 4,531 people living in Great Britain in
2003/04 who reported a work-related illness caused or made worse by
current or past work. These individuals were identified by screening
a nationally representative sample of 90 649 people in the Labour
Force Survey. Since the results are based on a sample survey, there
is a range of uncertainty around all estimates. In the report the
uncertainty is expressed in the form of 95% confidence intervals,
which mean that each range has a 95% chance of containing the true
value (ie the value that would have been found if the entire
population had been surveyed).