More than a quarter of a million people are claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because of mental and behavioural disorders, research has revealed.
While people at both ends of the age spectrum were severely affected, those aged 60 or older saw the most marked increased.
The analysis of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) statistics by Legal & General showed that 260,000 people were claiming ESA due to mental ill health in 2011.
This was an increase of over 29% since 2010 and illustrates the growing need to tackle mental health issues for businesses and employees.
L&G found there were cases 265,530 in May 2011, up from 205,700 at the same point the previous year.
Over 27% of the total number of claimants (73,600) were aged between 35-44 (up 29%) with a similar proportion (23%, 61,230) being aged 24-34, again up 28%.
However, the largest increase (66.90%) was in the +60 age-group.
The new figures highlight the importance of early notification and specialist support to help employees and employers with absence.
And they may also prove notable following the release of the independent Sickness Absence Review which targeted the need for better workplace absence management processes.
The government is yet to respond but has promised a white paper on the subject by the summer.
Diane Buckley, managing director of Legal & General Group Protection, said: "The fact that there are more than 260,000 individuals claiming sickness benefits for mental and behavioural disorders is concerning.
"These figures show how important it is for employers to provide good quality support for people in the workplace."
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