Around 137 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in 2016, data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed on Thursday (9 March).

But despite the seemingly high number of days lost, the average of 4.3 days per worker is the lowest since records began in 1993 when it was at 7.2 per work.

The ONS explained coughs and colds were the most common reason for the absences, with 34.0 million days lost or 24.8% of the total days lost thanks to the minor illnesses.

Mental health issues, including stress, depression and anxiety, were also a common reason for sickness absence with 15.8 million days (11.5%) lost.

"In 2016, the groups who experienced the highest rates of sickness absence were women, older workers, those with long-term health conditions, smokers, public health sector workers and those working in the largest organisations (those with 500 or more employees)," the research group said.

"The groups that have seen the greatest reduction in sickness absence rates over the last two decades are workers with long-term health conditions, workers aged 50 to 64, and those in the public sector."