Flu costs £30bn in sick days every year, finds new report

A new report published by the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC) today finds that the flu cost better off countries £30bn in lost working days in 2018.

Analysis by ILC, the UK’s specialist think tank on the impact of longevity on society, suggests that in better off countries (1), over 90 million people aged 50 and over get the flu each year.

Among those aged 50-64, the flu cost around 159 million working days in 2018, the economic impact of which is equivalent to $39 billion (or £30 billion), finds the ILC report.

However, despite the economic and social benefits from preventing flu, and the strong evidence of the efficacy of vaccinations, flu vaccination rates among people aged 65+ continue to fall across the OECD, from 49% in 2005 to 43% in 2015.


ILC Chief Executive Baroness Sally Greengross OBE argued:

“If we fail to intervene and to prevent ill health across the life course, we will pay the price. Our estimates suggest that the flu costs better off countries more than £30 billion in sick days every year.”

“Governments have repeatedly stated their commitment to prevention across the life course – from support for the WHO’s Decade of Healthy Ageing to G20 statements affirming the importance of prevention.”

“But improving vaccination uptake rates requires governments and policy makers to follow through with action, not rhetoric.”

“The economic and social costs of failing to act are substantial. Inaction is not an option.”



All references are available in the report.

The full “Lost time: Productivity and the flu” report can be found here: https://ilcuk.org.uk/lost-time-productivity-and-the-flu

For press queries, please contact Lily Parsey on LilyParsey@ilcuk.org.uk or 07745222553.

This report is part of the ILC’s Prevention in an ageing world programme, which has kindly been supported through charitable support or grants from Gilead Sciences, GSK, MSD, Pfizer, Sanofi and Seqirus.

Programme content is being developed independently of the funders and ILC-UK alone are responsible for the outputs.

For more information on the Prevention in an ageing world programme, please visit: preventionageingworld.org/

(1) Better off countries refer to those countries identified as ‘High SDI’ and ‘High-mid SDI’. This refers to a social development index, which is a summary measure of socio-demographic development which allows for effective comparison between countries. It combines income per person, educational attainment and total fertility rate to reach a comparable index.


About ILC

The ILC is the UK’s specialist think tank on the impact of longevity on society, and what happens next.

We believe society has to adapt now so we can all enjoy the benefits of longevity.

We want a society that works for everyone, regardless of their age.

We know the numbers. We know the challenges. What happens next will define us for generations.