The workforce has lost more than a million people since the pandemic began, with 400,000 without jobs due to health problems such as the prolonged Covid.
Disruption of care and declining mental health are also driving Britons out of jobs, the Institute for Public Policy Research said.
“Deep” health inequalities in the UK mean people are living shorter lives, suffering from more illnesses and facing greater barriers to work, the think tank’s report claimed.
If the problems were not resolved, they would drag economic activity down this year by an estimated £ 8 billion, it added.
Warning of Britain’s’ terminally low ‘productivity, researchers said those in the most economically disadvantaged parts of the country, including Blackpool, Knowsley and Barking and Dagenham in London, can expect to fall into ill health in the late’ 50s.
That is five years earlier than the national average.
The gap is partly due to low-quality housing, low wages and chronic stress, found the think tank, which is launching a cross-policy health and prosperity commission to investigate links between health and the economy.
Former Chief Physician Dame Sally Davies said the ‘scars’ from the pandemic are still deep on the nation’s health and our economy.
“Not only are we facing a severe cost-of-living crisis, driven in part by pandemic-induced inflation, we are also experiencing a labor shortage driven by ill health that is holding back the economy,” Commissioner Dame Sally said.
“It has never been more important to put good health at the heart of our society and economy, and our commission will present a plan to do just that.”
A government spokesman said tackling health inequalities was a “priority”, adding that they had committed £ 224 million to support people with long-term Covid.
“Our White Paper on Health Differences, to be published later this year, will include bold measures to reduce the difference in health outcomes between different places so that people’s backgrounds do not dictate their prospects for a healthy life,” the spokesman said.
“We provided unprecedented support to the economy during the pandemic, which protected millions of jobs and businesses – and unemployment is now back below pre-pandemic levels.”
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