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Workplace wellness – Health Foundation addresses growing crisis with creation of independent commission

By Liz Terry    06 Dec 2023
The need for effective workplace wellness programmes is being driven by the economic impact of an ailing workforce / Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
The Health Foundation has established the Independent Commission for Healthier Working Lives to address the crisis of ill health in the workplace
Ill health among working-age people in the UK has dramatically increased over the last decade, to the point where it is now impacting economic growth
The Health Foundation estimates 7.4m people in the UK are working in spite of ill health or unable to work because of it. Younger people are disproportionately impacted by mental health challenges
The Commission will be chaired by Sacha Romanovitch OBE

An Independent Commission for Healthier Working Lives, supported by the Health Foundation, is being established to investigate the issue of declining health in the UK workforce and recommend action that can be taken by both the government and employers.

Ill health among working-age people has dramatically increased over the last decade, to the point where it is now impacting economic growth. The Health Foundation estimates 3.7 million people are now in work, but struggling with a health condition which limits what they can do and how much they can earn.

This is a similar number to those with work-limiting conditions who are not working, making a total of around 7.4m people who are not living full lives and not fully contributing to the economy or being self-sustaining economically.

Statistics show that women, older workers, those who are not university educated and those of Bangladeshi ethnicity, are most likely to have a work-limiting condition, with cardiovascular and musculoskeletal disorders being the most common.

In addition, rates have doubled among younger workers over the last decade, driven by increasing levels of mental illness.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, CEO of The Health Foundation believes a long-term plan is needed, saying: “For too long, health challenges in our working-age populations have been overlooked. Our health is an asset which needs investing in and being unable to work, or having to work and earn less, can affect our health and worsen inequalities. The impact of poor working-age health on public finances cannot be ignored either.”

The independent Commission will be chaired by Sacha Romanovitch OBE, with a secretariat provided by the Health Foundation. Commissioners and partners will be announced over the coming months.

The Commission will partner with expert organisations, engage with employers, trade unions and other stakeholders to understand the challenge and build a consensus on action.

A final report is expected in 2025.


Trade Association UK Active has been running a programme of musculoskeletal hubs in partnership with health and fitness operators in the UK as part of a MSK Health Hubs initiative, with Parkwood Leisure one of the first to commit to the programme.

Musculoskeletal issues are a major contributor to people being unable to work, says the Health Foundation / Shutterstock/Dusan Petkovic
Health Foundation  Independent Commission for Healthier Working Lives 
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