One in five UK workers has chronic lifestyle-related illness

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Almost one in five (19%) British workers suffers from a chronic illness, including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, according to research by PruHealth with Vitality and Mercer.

The Britain’s Healthiest Company report is based on a survey of more than 25,000 UK employees. It suggests that serious health problems cost employers £58 billion a year, the equivalent of 7.78% of their annual wage bill.

The report also suggests most employees are unaware of issues surrounding their health. One-third demonstrate three or more risk factors that could affect their health, although 58% believe themselves to be reasonably healthy.

One in five (19%) drink too much alcohol, although 93% are not motivated to change their drinking habits. More than one-third (39%) have impacted their health through smoking, but 60% do not intend to stop. Additionally, more than one-third (36%) do not get enough exercise, and 33% do not wish to exercise more.

Neville Koopowitz, chief executive of PruHealth with Vitality, called the report a "wake-up call" for employers.

"Doing nothing is no longer an option and businesses are realising the heavy financial burden being placed on their bottom lines as a result," he said. "With an ageing workforce set to suffer from more lifestyle-related chronic diseases and retiring much later, this is a problem that will only get worse and it is in organisations’ own interests to take action."

Chris Bailey, head of corporate consulting for employee health and benefits at Mercer, added that health trends are "fundamentally different" than when most employee health benefits schemes were designed.

"We’re now seeing an upswing in the number of companies looking to implement programmes that engage employees on their health," he said. 

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