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UK’s normal times ill health is a £100 billion bill for employers

George Pallis, CEO - Manual

According to WHO, men are living healthier and longer lives than ever before but are still more likely to be burdened by illness and are outlived by women in every country.

With this in mind, Manual, the wellbeing platform for men, has analysed health data* for 156 countries worldwide across ten categories – including life expectancy, rates of diseases such as diabetes, cancer and obesity, mental health disorders and daily alcohol intake – to find out where has the largest gender health gaps and the potential impact on workplaces.

In the UK, both sexes score poorly overall compared to countries worldwide, with men ranking in 87th place out of 156 and women in 125th place. This means the UK has a gender health gap of -38, with females worse off – the largest female health gap in the G20** and the 12th largest globally.

 Public Health England estimates the combined cost of “worklessness and sickness absence” comes to around £100bn annually. The workplace undoubtedly has an impact on the health of its staff and an important role to play in supporting a healthier nation.

 In response, many UK businesses have introduced wellbeing initiatives, but with the country scoring poorly for both male and female health categories, is there more companies could do to support employee health?

 When examining how UK men and women scored in each category, there are several which are significantly lower than the global average.

 The female cancer score in the UK is 144th/156 in the world. This is particularly concerning given the take-up of cervical screening is now the lowest it’s ever been, and uptake of mammograms is also at a decade low, meaning more instances of female cancers may be going undetected or discovered at a later stage.

 Men in the UK also score poorly for prevalence of cancer compared to men in other countries (139th/156). Cancer survival rates in the UK have long fallen behind other countries of similar wealth and incomes.

The data also shows UK women are less physically active than most women around the world, coming in at position 116/156. In fact, a recent study showed almost half of British women are not doing enough exercise to maintain good health. The same is true for UK men, ranking 125th.

Manual’s study reveals a gender mental health gap exists in the UK too which sees men at higher risk of experiencing a mental health issue than women.

Out of 156 countries globally, women are placed 125th for their risk of experiencing a mental health or substance disorder, whereas men place 133rd. Both scores place the UK in the bottom third of global rankings for mental wellbeing.

According to an NHS report, men are almost three times more likely than women to drink alcohol at a hazardous level, and are also more likely to smoke.

These statistics are supported by Manual’s latest findings, where UK males rank 89th/156 for their average daily alcohol consumption. UK women are marginally ahead, ranking 86th/156 for this category.

 To provide both men and women with the full health support they need, UK employers should consider whether they recognise gender health differences in their workplace policies.

 Creating an open and inclusive culture, reinforced by support systems like EAPs, line manager training and access to counselling, can empower employees to share mental and physical health concerns and increase uptake of health-related workplace benefits, without being afraid of stigma.

 George Pallis, CEO of Manual commented on the findings:

It really is eye-opening to see the gender health gap in the UK and with figures for sickness absence at an all-time high, businesses need to ensure they are supporting the health needs of both men and women equally.

 “Everyone no matter their gender, age or background, should own their health and happiness by accessing the support available to them and speaking to a medical professional as soon as symptoms appear.”


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