Nearly 20 per cent of over-50s who quit work during the Covid pandemic and have not returned are on NHS waiting lists, according to official data.
The figure was higher than for those who remained in the workforce during the pandemic, as well as those who stopped working but have since gone back.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found economic inactivity – where people are unemployed and not seeking work in the short-term – has risen since the Covid pandemic, with much of the increase driven by the 50-65 age bracket.
Long-term sickness was a major factor in the most recent increase, according to the statistics body.
The ONS has now released more detailed findings on people aged 50 to 65 years old who have quit work and not returned since the start of the Covid pandemic.
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The research aims to better understand their motivations for leaving work and whether they intend to go back.
It found 51 per cent of over-50s who quit work without returning since the start of the Covid pandemic had a physical or mental health condition.
This was higher than those who stopped working but did return, with 43 per cent of these having a health condition.
The ONS found 18 per cent who were still out of the workforce since leaving in the Covid pandemic said they were currently on NHS waiting lists for medical treatment, with the figure slightly higher for women than men.
This was at the time of the survey – which involved more than 23,000 adults – between 10 and 29 August.
In comparison, a lower 15 per cent of those who quit but returned were on NHS waiting lists and 12 per cent of those who have remained in the workforce.
The ONS estimates there are now 640,000 more UK adults out of work and not seeking employment since the start of the Covid pandemic.
Last month, the boss of John Lewis urged retired over-50s to come back to work in a bid to solve critical job shortages, which have been blamed on both Brexit and Covid.
The government is also reportedly looking at making it easier for overseas workers to come to the UK to help to fill vacancies for businesses.