Musculoskeletal disorders account for almost half of all sick absence, the Work Foundation has revealed.
The Fit for Work Europe report, conducted by the Foundation, found 49% of all sickness absences in Europe were caused by musculoskeletal conditions like back pain, arthritis and repetitive strain injuries.
The report showed an estimated one million people in the UK suffer from musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), causing 9.5 million working days to be lost each year.
The cost of these absences to the UK economy was £7bn a year.
The Work Foundation warned these figures were set to rise because of the ageing workforce, the growth in obesity and the decline in physical activity.
Stephen Bevan, managing director of the Work Foundation, told the BBC: “MSDs clearly have a serious, negative impact on the EU workforce, as they were responsible for millions of lost working days.
“As Europe now struggles to emerge from the global recession, one consideration policymakers should address is how labour productivity in businesses is being undermined by these often very painful conditions.”
The Work Foundation has now launched a Fit for Work Europe campaign calling for governments and healthcare professionals across Europe to do more to tackle musculoskeletal disorders.