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19 November 2011, 11:33 | Updated: 19 November 2011, 11:36
Researchers in Colchester say only one in four workers who have to quit because of ill health find another job within a year.
A report by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University said leaving work due to illness or injury can be just as damaging as becoming unemployed.
Workers leaving due to health problems suffer a 25% drop in monthly household income, 3% more than for people who become unemployed, according to the research, which draws on British Household Panel Survey data covering 10,000 individuals in 5,500 households.
Dr Mark Taylor, one of the researchers, said: "The spouses of this group of people are less likely to be employed and are more likely to leave work than those of people who become unemployed.
"We also find evidence suggesting that spouses who stay in work are affected. For example, more than one third of the spouses of those who left work for health reasons and who remained out of work a year later reduced their working hours.
"This indicates that health-related withdrawal from work has wider repercussions.''
Jack McGarry, chief executive of financial protection firm Unum UK, which helped with the study, added: "These stark figures are worrying, and particularly because so few people in the UK have a financial back-up plan to support them during this difficult period.
"Every year, one in 100 people leave employment for health-related reasons and 76% are still unable to work a year later.''