Press Story

  • 30 per cent of people who are economically inactive have a heart or circulatory health condition, finds IPPR
  • Someone with heart disease had a 22 per cent likelihood of leaving work, more than someone with cancer or mental health issues
  • Cardiovascular deaths vary greatly across the UK, see this map to find out how many could have been avoided by local authority
  • UK could have prevented one in 20 deaths in 2019 if it had maintained even half the previous rate of progress on prevention
  • Call for action on obesity, preventative medicines, exercise, tobacco and air pollution to save lives and help people stay in work

People are more likely to leave work due to a heart condition than any other health issue, according to a new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

The think tank found that more than mental health (14 per cent), cancer (16 per cent) or any other health condition, a heart disease diagnosis carries the biggest risk of leaving the labour market. Someone with the onset of cardiovascular disease (CVD) between 2021-2 had a 22 per cent likelihood of leaving their job.

Of working-age people who are economically inactive, almost one in three have a heart, blood pressure or circulatory health condition.

This is particularly acute for people over the age of 50, which is currently the government’s target group for getting people back into work.

There is significant variation in cardiovascular disease mortality across England and Wales, with the North West particularly badly affected. If the entire of the UK had the same outcomes as the best tenth of local authorities, there would have been 32,000 fewer deaths in 2021 alone – the equivalent of 5 per cent of all mortality.

This is linked to a slowdown in progress on prevention in the last decade. Had we maintained even half the progress on preventable cardiovascular disease mortality observed between 2005 and 2010, the report estimates that there would have been nearly 33,000 fewer deaths in 2019 – one in 20 deaths that year.

While NHS waiting lists have been steadily growing over recent years, exacerbated by the pandemic, cardiology waiting lists have tripled since 2012, higher than the growth in the overall NHS waiting lists.

Heart disease is highly preventable, with around 80 per cent of heart disease deaths being avoidable. However, it requires proactive preventative action.

IPPR is calling on the government to implement a recovery plan for treating cardiovascular disease, helping both the NHS and the economy, by:

  • Delivering new preventative policies, such as extending the current ‘sugar levy’ on soft drinks to all high-fat and high-salt products, and using the revenue to subsidise healthy food options
  • Getting waiting lists for cardiology down, through increasing access to preventative medications, retaining staff and expanding access to personalised care
  • Investing in research, with an immediate injection of £220 million for R&D in cardiovascular disease prevention – with an explicit goal of crowding in private investment

Chris Thomas, head of IPPR’s Commission on Health and Prosperity, said:

After great strides in tackling cardiovascular disease in the 20th century, the UK is now stalling if not reversing. This is not just costing lives, but also livelihoods. The good news is that heart disease is one of the most preventable health conditions, but the government has to get on to the front foot and deliver proactive policies. Both human lives and economic prosperity depend on it.”


Chris Thomas, the report’s author, is available for interview


David Wastell, Director of News and Communications: 07921 403651

Liam Evans, Senior Digital and Media Officer: 07419 365334


  1. The IPPR paper, Broken hearted: A spotlight paper on cardio-vascular disease, by Chris Thomas, will be published at 00:01 on Wednesday 14 February
  2. Advance copies of the report are available under embargo on request
  3. IPPR (the Institute for Public Policy Research) is an independent charity working towards a fairer, greener, and more prosperous society. We are researchers, communicators, and policy experts creating tangible progressive change, and turning bold ideas into common sense realities. Working across the UK, IPPR, IPPR North, and IPPR Scotland are deeply connected to the people of our nations and regions, and the issues our communities face. We have helped shape national conversations and progressive policy change for more than 30 years. From making the early case for the minimum wage and tackling regional inequality, to proposing a windfall tax on energy companies, IPPR’s research and policy work has put forward practical solutions for the crises facing society.