Philosophy of The Big Society

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Saturday, 4 October 2008

On The Sick Through Mental Ill Health - Prepare To Meet Thy Maker

You can always count on the BBC to bring uplifting stories direct to your frontroom or wherever your pc happens to be.

According to an article on the BBC Website ( of us who have had, or take, long spells of sick leave due to mental ill health are far more likely to die from cancer than other employees. Well, that is if you are a civil servant.

Those eager beavers at the University College in London have done some research, which was based on sickness records from London-based employees in 20 Whitehall departments between 1985 and 1988 and compared with mortality up until 2004.

From this research they deducted that of the 6,500 civil servants, those who had taken a long period of sick leave had a 66% higher risk of early death.

And, in their highly attuned (to making crass statements) opinion, the cancer risk may be due to depressed people not seeing a doctor soon enough.

Overall 288 people died during the study.

The 30% of people who had one or more stints of at least seven days off work had a 66% increased risk of premature death compared to those who had not had any long periods of sick leave, it was found.

The highest mortality risk was seen in those who had been off work with heart disease, stroke or related conditions who had more than four times the risk of premature death than those who had no long sickness absences.
Forgive my scepticism but I wouldn't call stating the obvious about heart disease being more of a death risk than the risk of death to those people who don't take time off work (because they don't have heart disease) as groundbreaking journalism.

If this evidence was put to a court of law, I think, it would be chucked out for being as over-righteous as it is hole-y!


  1. Just another way to push those who are too unwell back to work. For the people who are actually genuinely sick, who I hope is majority their concern is the immediate illnesss and risk of death from meds or suicidal ideation and not that if recover many years ahead may be more likely to get cancer.

    Can see a future where mental illness is criminalised.

    (Hope that makes sense had to rewrite few times - bad night)

  2. Hi Lareve

    Made perfect sense to me.

    I got more than a whiff of guilt tripping the mentally ill back to work...from reading it.

    Hows about people who get an acute episode just stay at work...that way everyone gets a piece of the action!!!

    Sorry you are having rough night.


  3. and the meds can cause heart disease too as well as diabetes and obesity!!!!

  4. I was gonna post that BBC article myself but got sidestepped by a piece of paper from the Welsh Health Minister.
    Deb Acle said you wanted my email but Wordpress was playing up. It may appear in this post if not leave me a comment or go to where it is at the bottom of the page and I will reply to you :>)
    I have a misdiagnosed mental health "illness" that COST me my job and life and I WANT to go back to work, well did, wouldn't work for the NHS now as I did for 23 years.

  5. I agree Margaret

    But you don't get any media articles written about that.

  6. Hi Maddenist

    Wilting here but will pop over to your blog later.

    Sorry you lost your job and life, as you knew it, because of your illness.

    Not sure if you know any of my history but I worked for 20 years in a college. Wasn't diagnosed with Bipolar till my late 30's. Too much ruddy tragedy in my life has left me pretty much screwed over.

    I think the NHS is one of the worst environments for people with mental ill health to work within but admire anyone who tries!!!

    Look forward to reading your blog.