Workers who did badly at school 'more likely to take long-term sick leave as adults'

Workers who had a low intellectual ability in childhood are more likely to take long-term sick leave as adults, research shows.

Youngsters' performance at school has a 'strong impact' on whether they are forced into joblessness through sickness in later life, according to a report into health-related benefits in Britain.

The study claimed that a poor education is 'likely' to limit the ability to transfer skills.

Crucial years: Youngsters' performance at school has a strong impact on whether they are forced into joblessness in later life, researchers say

Crucial years: Youngsters' performance at school has a strong impact on whether they are forced into joblessness in later life, researchers say

A person with few skills who goes off sick from a labouring job, for example, will have few options to find alternative employment.

The study involved more than 23,000 people whose cognitive behaviour was measured in either 1946, 1958 or 1970.

In the 1946 group, 47 per cent of those who were on long-term sick leave had been in the bottom quarter of childhood ability, compared to 13 per cent who were in the highest.

Time off: Scientists claimed that strategies to reduce long-term sick leave should involve education

Time off: Scientists claimed that strategies to reduce long-term sick leave should involve education

From the 1958 cohort, 41 per cent of those off sick were in the lowest quartile of ability, while 32 per cent of the 1970 interviewees were in this category.

The authors, writing in the journal BMJ Open, stated that over 2.5million people receive health-related benefits in the UK, including Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance.

They claimed that strategies to reduce long-term sick leave should involve education.

'Our findings suggest that health is only one factor in understanding long-term sickness absence, they wrote.

'We suggest that education should form part of the policy response to long-term sickness absence: for future generations, equipping children with skills necessary for labour market flexibility may inoculate them from the risk of long-term sickness absence.'

The report, written by experts including Max Henderson from King's College London, concluded: 'Long-term sick leave is a complex outcome with many risk factors beyond health.

'Cognitive abilities might impact on the way individuals are able to develop strategies to maintain their employment or rapidly find new employment when faced with a range of difficulties.'

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