Shropshire Star

Cathy Dobbs: What's really behind this wave of sickness

Cathy Dobbs’ weekly look at life.


If you are regularly off sick then get a job in the public sector. This is the advice my friend’s husband received when he was sacked within his six-month probation for having too much time off.

His health isn’t great – he’s obese, smokes too much and suffers with depression. However, like the rest of us, he has to work to pay the ever-increasing bills.

Doing any kind of work is better than sitting at home on benefits, but it’s not good to hear that people with a poor sickness record are being pointed in the direction of the public sector.

How many times have appointments been cancelled, paperwork gone missing and meetings delayed by councils, schools and hospitals because of sickness? If I’m honest, I’m not the only one getting sick of it.

The number of people being off work ill is surging, with 5,000 a day claiming sickness benefits – this is twice the figure we had pre-Covid. It looks like things are only going to get worse as the Office for Budget Responsibility expects this increase to continue until 12 per cent of the country is claiming a form of sickness benefit.

Mental health is a big issue, with antidepressants being dished out to 6.5 million of us – that’s an extra million people compared to five years ago. In the last decade the number of adults reporting a disability has risen by a third, and an extra 25 per cent of children and young people are accessing NHS mental health services.

Has the Government’s Project Fear left us all anxious and depressed? Have we just become a nation of whingers that wouldn’t know a stiff upper lip if it slapped us in the face?

Whatever is going on it’s not only worrying, it’s also incredibly expensive.


Social media is regularly highlighted as having a negative effect on the mental health of teenagers. Studies have claimed that TikTok produces content related to suicide and eating disorders within minutes of teenagers creating an account.

Now the social media giant is facing more restrictions after India issued a nationwide ban of TikTok. Other countries are following their example.

Here in the UK TikTok is now banned on government devices. These bans aren’t because of mental health reasons though – it’s over concerns that sensitive information could get into the hands of the Chinese government.

Can you imagine if the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn were all banned? Maybe more of us would take up old-fashioned skills such as knitting and meeting face-to-face. Ahh, what a quaint idea!