But do the numbers really show the full picture?
Beneath the shiny headlines of a so-called healthier nation, the stark fact remains that many people feel they can’t take sickness leave.
Whether it’s financial, mental or physical, as a nation we’re contending with various different pressures.
The pressures of work and whether people feel they can take time off becomes crystal clear when we look at the different types of employment.
Employed vs self-employed
Take the gap between people in full-time employment and those who are self-employed or freelance workers.
In 2017, the former took 2% of working days off due to illness, compared to just 1.3% of working days missed by the latter.
This might not sound like a big deal, but scaled up it’s a huge 35% difference between the two.
The picture is similar for those working in the public sector versus those in the private sector.
The former took 2.6% of their working days off, while the latter took a much lower 1.7% days off – a difference of roughly 35% again.
These aren’t blips either, the same trend has dominated the two data sets for well over two decades.
The message is clear: illness is an expensive business.
It can wreak havoc on personal finances and for some it feels that they simply can’t afford to take their foot off the gas pedal for even a day to recover.
In short, there’s a protection gap that is still stopping many – a gap where income protection has an important role to play.
Meet modern working needs
Income protection itself is key to challenging the different assumptions that come with different styles of working.
These are namely that the self-employed lack the safety net that comes with working for larger organisations, and the private sector trails behind their public counterparts when it comes to offering sick pay and cover.
Neither of these assumptions should be the case.
In today’s busy world, people who choose varying or flexible working lives should not have to risk their health and personal finances as a result.
This is the reality which the insurance industry has been fighting hard to solve, but there’s still a way to go.
Bespoke income protection services have been created to cater to the very fact that people’s careers and incomes can be complex.
Insurers are very aware that despite all the different lifestyles we as a nation choose, the need for protection is still universal.
So while sickness rates are on a downward spiral, and we have an ever-improving medical framework in place, we need to make sure the same can be said for the financial framework.
We need to redouble the industry efforts to provide transparent, flexible products that meet modern working needs.