British workers are taking the fewest sick days since records began
Around 137 million working days were lost from injuries and illnesses ranging from coughs and colds to depression, said the Office for National Statistics.
The figure is equivalent to 4.3 days per worker in the UK, the lowest rate since records began in 1993, when it was 7.2 days.
The figure peaked at 185 million in the late 1990s and has risen slightly in recent years as the workforce has increased.
Minor illnesses such as coughs and colds accounted for the most days lost due to sickness in 2016, at 34 million (24.8 per cent of the total) followed by musculoskeletal problems including back pain, neck and upper limb problems (30.8 million).
Mental health issues including stress, depression, anxiety and more serious conditions such as manic depression and schizophrenia resulted in 15.8 million days being lost.
Around 137 million working days were lost to injury and illness
Sickness absence rates were highest in Wales and Scotland, at 2.6 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively, and lowest in London, at 1.4 per cent.
Since 2003, there has been a fairly steady decline in the number of working days lost to sickness
Statistician Brendan Freeman
Smokers had a higher absence rate at 2.5% than for those who had never smoked.
Employees had a higher rate of sickness absence than the self-employed, 2.1 per cent compared with 1.4 per cent, said the ONS.
The figures were 2.9 per cent for the public sector and 1.7 per cent for workers in private firms last year.
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The average worker takes 4.3 sick days a year
Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistician Brendan Freeman said: "Since 2003, there has been a fairly steady decline in the number of working days lost to sickness, especially during the economic downturn.
"In recent years, there has been a small rise in the number of days lost, but due to an increasing number of people entering the workforce, the rate per worker and overall sickness absence rate have stayed largely flat."