The number of people not working in the UK due to long-term sickness has risen to a new record, official figures show.
The Office for National Statistics said more than two and a half million were not working because of health problems.
There had been a rise in mental health issues in younger people, the ONS said, as well as in back and neck pain, possibly due to home working.
The ONS figures also showed the squeeze on pay remains, with wage increases failing to keep up with rising prices.
However, public sector pay is now growing at the fastest pace for about 20 years.
A rise in part-time and self-employed workers helped to push up the employment rate in the first three months of the year, the ONS said, and the number of job vacancies fell again.
Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said that since the Covid pandemic started there are “well over 400,000 more people outside of the labour market due to ill health and that means we are now at a new record level of comfortably over two and a half million”.
He added that an increase had been seen in “conditions related to mental health, particularly in the young”. There was also a rising number of people “having musculoskeletal issues, so problems connected to the back and neck, with some theories of the increase in home working contributing to that”.
“We’ve also seen an increase in the category that includes post-viral fatigue so perhaps long Covid having an impact.”
There are 2.55 million people classed as long-term sick, compared to 33 million people who are currently in work. That implies that for every 13 people currently working, one person is long-term sick.
Read more: Record numbers not working due to ill health