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Women take more days off sick than men. On average the female workforce take almost five sick days a year, whilst their male colleagues take fewer than four, new figures out today have shown..

Overall, the picture for UK employers is looking much brighter than 20 years ago. Office for National Statistics figures released today show the number of working days lost to sickness in 2013, at 131m, was down more than a third on 1993. That means the average worker took 4.4 days off in 2013 compared with 7.2 days in 1993.

Back and neck pain remain the greatest cause for working days lost in 2013 (31m days off) closely followed by minor illnesses like coughs and colds (27m days off). Stress, anxiety and depression were the cause of 15m absence days, up from 11.8m in 2010.

Business owners won’t be surprised to hear that the self-employed lost just 1.2% of their working hours to sickness, compared to 2.1% for employees.

Analysts point to a couple of reasons why sick leave is more common in women. One is that men are more likely to go to work even when they should be off sick. The other is that women are more likely to be the main carer for children or an elderly relative, and are likely to take a sick day to deal with emergencies there.