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Historical picture: trends in work-related ill health and workplace injury in Great Britain

Important Note

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the government’s response has impacted recent trends in health and safety statistics published by HSE. The coronavirus pandemic has also affected certain data collections and consequently, no new data on working days lost is available for 2020/21. More details can be found in our technical report on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on health and safety statistics.

In recent decades there have been large reductions in both fatal and non-fatal workplace injuries. However, the picture for ill health is mixed. Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the rate of total self-reported work-related illness (total includes both new and long-standing cases), particularly musculoskeletal disorders, had declined from the level seen in the 1990s. In contrast, the rate of total self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety had shown signs of increasing in recent years prior to the coronavirus pandemic having been broadly flat since around 1998/99.

With the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the labour market, it is not possible to put current data in the context of the longer-term trends. However, we can make comparisons of the level of work-related illness in 2020/21 with pre-coronavirus levels: the rate of total self-reported work-related illness was higher in 2020/21 than the 2018/19 pre-coronavirus level, driven by a higher rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety. For self-reported work-related musculoskeletal disorders, the rate in 2020/21 was broadly similar to the 2018/19 pre-coronavirus level.

Annual mesothelioma deaths increased substantially over the last few decades due to past asbestos exposures but have remained broadly level over recent years, with early signs that numbers are beginning to reduce.

More information

The detailed data included in these charts can be found in the following tables:

Work-related illness

  • for self-reported work-related illness in England and Wales, covering Labour Force Surveys for the years 1990, 1995 and 1998/99, see LFSILLHIST;
  • for self-reported work-related illness in Great Britain, see LFSILLTYP;
  • for death certificates mentioning mesothelioma in Great Britain, see MESO01;

Workplace injuries

  • for self-reported non-fatal workplace injuries in Great Britain, see LFSINJSUM;
  • for employer-reported fatal and non-fatal injuries in Great Britain, see RIDHIST;

Working days lost

  • for working days lost due to work-related illness and non-fatal workplace injury in Great Britain, see LFSWDL.
Updated 2021-05-14