The four biggest critical illnesses in the UK take more than £15bn a year out of the UK economy, with the impact of cancer on UK workers alone causing a £9.3bn impact to the economy, according to new research from Legal & General.
The insurer’s Cost of Critical Illness research, which aims to highlight the importance of critical illness protection, found that cancer, MS, strokes and coronary heart disease have a combined impact on productivity to the tune of £15.2bn, as a result of people withdrawing from the workforce or from ongoing complications affecting their ability to work full-time.
The research found that 22% of the financial impact caused by cancer, around £2.1bn, is linked to employees still in work but being affected by well-known consequences of critical illness es, such as fatigue and post-traumatic stress.
Though the biggest single impact comes from premature deaths (£5.2bn), a further £2bn hit to the UK workforce came as a result of employees who had to stop working. This group was made up of around 57,000 cancer sufferers on Employment Support Allowance, but also an estimated 26,000 of diagnosed workers who had left employment altogether.
Coronary heart disease and strokes have a significant effect on the UK workforce, causing a financial impact of £2.8bn and £1.9bn respectively. MS, whilst much less prevalent amongst UK workers, has a disproportionate effect on the UK workforce when compared to the number of sufferers. Around 80% of the £1.14bn impact to the economy came from employees having to leave the workforce.
With the employment rate amongst MS sufferers being just 28%, the condition also has a wider impact than just withdrawals from the labour force. According to the research, MS has an ongoing financial impact to individuals, with the potential to cause up to £8,000 in lost annual earnings in the years following diagnosis.
The research also found that employees returning to work after a stroke could see a loss of around £7,300 in annual earnings. By contrast, the financial shock of cancer was less, but for many just as devastating, with the average UK worker in their 50s seeing their income cut by £3,800 a year.
Craig Brown, director of intermediary at Legal & General, added: “Though the effects of critical illness on our health are rightly front of mind, our research clearly shows that these diseases can have a major impact on our ability to work and earn a steady income.
“Whether it’s simply paying off the mortgage or even just having the funds in place to enjoy time with our families, critical illnesses can take away our ability to maintain our lifestyles or even stay in our own home.
“In either case, the lump sum paid out by critical illness insurance can be invaluable in helping consumers to manage their financial circumstances in their time of need. By helping to pay off essential monthly outgoings, these policies can help remove added worry about money at a time when individuals need to focus on their recovery.”