Mental health is the biggest reason people need a sick note from their doctor

More than a million doctors' sick notes were given out in Yorkshire last year, with mental health issues like stress, depression and anxiety topping the list of reasons people were too ill to work.

Mental health is the biggest reason people take time off work

Yorkshire is one of the top regions in England for sickness, as one in nine of the country's sick notes -- now officially called “fit notes” -- are issued in the region.

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NHS England data released this week shows 1.2m fit notes were handed out in Yorkshire in the 12 months to March this year, equivalent to nearly three percent of the Yorkshire population.

Mental health is the biggest reason people take time off work

The figures also represent a 2.9 per cent rise on last year, slightly above the national average of 2.5 per cent.

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesman said that the government does not see one specific reason for the rise.

A total of 93 per cent of doctors’ notes advised that people were too ill to work and seven percent advised the need for a phased return to work or amended duties.

Leeds was the fit note capital of Yorkshire, with 178,000 fit notes given out in a year, followed by Sheffield with 115,000 and Wakefield with 93,000.

On the other end of the scale, the area with the fewest sick notes was Scarborough and Ryedale with 18,000, followed by Bassetlaw with 20,000 and Harrogate with 22,000.

Richard Weaver, a manager at Leeds-based charity Health For All which works with families to encourage better habits and improve health, said he has seen many cases where lifestyle factors had a negative impact on health.

“People are a lot busier now and they’re in bad habits,” he said, adding that people are more likely to eat frozen meals and not have time for exercise than they were in the past. “We’ve moved away from a family sat round a table and having a meal together.”

These things not only can have a physical effect, but a mental effect too, and may contribute to mental illness being the biggest reason people were signed off.

Musculoskeletal disorders were the second-largest reason for being signed off work, the data showed.

Nurses and carers are most at risk of this, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), between them having approximately 50,000 cases of musculoskeletal disorders per year.

These are often caused by lifting and handling injuries, which are preventable with proper training and workplace processes, HSE said.