Mercer | Lost Generation is suffering

Mercer | Lost Generation is suffering

‘Lost Generation’ is left suffering both financially and health wise in the aftermath of the recession

  • 7 March 2017
  • United Kingdom, London
  • Generation that entered workforce following the last recession has the greatest financial concerns and is the least physically active
  • Employees aged 35 and under lose the highest average amount of productive time due to absenteeism and presenteeism

Employees aged 35 years old and under have the most financial concerns and are the least physically active, according to data from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW). These same employees, many of whom entered the workforce following the recent global financial crisis, already suffer from social mobility challenges and tough economic conditions1, and now we are seeing the considerable impact this has on individuals’ health and wellbeing. BHW data shows that employees under 35 years old are the least physically active in the workforce, have a high proportion of smokers2 and eat the least fruit and vegetables each day.

BHW data shows that almost 35% of 26-30 year old employees are physically inactive, completing less than 150 minutes of exercise a week, and on top of this nearly 14% of this age group smoke. Comparatively, the same data shows that older employees have healthier habits, with 22.5% of 56-60 year olds being physically inactive and only a small proportion (6.1%) smoking. BHW surveys more than 34,000 workers across all UK industries and was developed in partnership with VitalityHealth, Mercer, the University of Cambridge, and RAND Europe.

Data from BHW shows that high stress levels can have major impacts on employee productivity at work, which in turn has cost implications for the employer. The generation that joined the workforce during the aftermath of the financial crisis is financially disadvantaged, with increased work pressures and stagnant wages1 and according to BHW data, on average employees aged 35 or under report the highest levels of financial concerns. This same age group also loses up to 30 days at work due to absence and underperformance due to ill-health, also known as ‘presenteeism’. This translates to workers losing more than an entire working month of productive time annually, whilst in comparison, employees aged between 56 and 60 reported up to 13% less financial concerns, losing on average just 19.6 days annually.

“Ill-health, unhealthy lifestyles and financial stress are all factors associated with employees losing productive time at work,” said Chris Bailey, Partner at Mercer. “Employees 35 years old and under have become part of a ‘lost generation’, suffering both health wise and financially as a result of the recession. It is important to keep this ‘lost generation’ healthy and active as we know that they will be working longer than generations before them. Employers recognise that working for prolonged periods with ill-health will significantly affect employee stress and productivity levels over time. These employees are the future of work and companies should invest in them through holistic wellbeing programmes which include physical and mental health, financial wellbeing and other associated areas such as social interaction and personal development. It’s important to take a view of what makes a person truly ‘well’ and able to be as productive as possible over a sustained period.”

Shaun Subel, Director of Strategy at VitalityHealth said, “When examining the UK’s productivity challenge we have seen that demographic factors such as age and income play a key role, with the younger generation and lower earners being particularly susceptible to high levels of absence and presenteeism. While young people are naturally less affected by clinical and chronic health conditions, our results show that in terms of lifestyle health they are in fact worse off than their older counterparts – they get less exercise, are less likely to eat healthily and are more likely to smoke, suggesting that people become more health-conscious in their behaviour as they age. In parallel, the younger generation suffers more from financial concerns, and is shown to be significantly less engaged in work, pointing to the effect of the financial crisis in damaging job prospects and wage progression for this ‘lost generation’ of workers.”

Notes to Editors
Britain’s Healthiest Workplace is the UK’s most comprehensive workplace wellness study. Since inception in 2013, 400 organisations and 100,000 employees have taken part in the study, across a wide range of industries, regions and demographic groups. Registrations for the 2017 study are open until 17 March 2017. To find out more and register your organisation visit:

The Britain's Healthiest Workplace research process took place between February and August 2016. It looked at a number of lifestyle, mental wellbeing, clinical risk and productivity factors amongst 34,128 employees, together with a broad view of leadership and cultural dimensions and organisational policies, practices and facilities that could directly impact on employee health, across 160 companies. Results based on UK workforce as reported by each company surveyed.

1State of the nation 2016: social mobility in Great Britain by the Social Mobility Commission

2 Both e-cigarettes and vapes are included within Britain’s Healthiest Workplace dataset

About Mercer
Mercer is a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement and investments. Mercer helps clients around the world advance the health, wealth and careers of their most vital asset – their people. Mercer’s more than 20,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in over 140 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), a global professional services firm offering clients advice and solutions in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With annual revenue of $13 billion and 60,000 colleagues worldwide, Marsh & McLennan Companies is also the parent company of Marsh, a leader in insurance broking and risk management; Guy Carpenter, a leader in providing risk and reinsurance intermediary services; and Oliver Wyman, a leader in management consulting. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer. In the UK, Mercer Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Vitality – changing health and life insurance for good
Vitality is the insurance business that helps people understand how they can improve their own personal health. Vitality makes it cheaper and easier for its members to get healthy and gives them rewards to keep them motivated, through a range of discounts and incentives.

Vitality Ambassadors Jessica Ennis-Hill, Jonny Wilkinson, Joe Root and Maro Itoje are role models who embody the values of Vitality. They are all using their passion for living a healthy lifestyle to motivate others to make positive changes. Taking small steps today can dramatically improve wellbeing over the long-term, regardless of your current state of health.

VitalityHealth is one of the UK’s leading private medical insurers and has pioneered the ‘shared-value’ insurance model. This is a unique approach to insurance that uses incentives to motivate better lifestyle choices among members, which translates into lower mortality and morbidity risk over time. The effect is positive for all stakeholders – members benefit through the financial and intrinsic value of rewards, as well as better health; employers benefit from healthier, more productive, and more engaged employees; and Vitality benefits from a healthier membership base. For more information visit