THE number of Glaswegians too sick to work is nearly double the national average.A report by the Scottish Observatory for Work and Health (SOWH) found that 13.6 per cent of working-age people in the city claimed incapacity benefit, the main sickness allowance, in 2008.
By contrast, only 6.9 per cent of adults in Edinburgh claimed the £80-a-week payment – now called the employment support allowance. Across the whole of the UK, the average figure was 7.1 per cent.
The report also revealed Glasgow had more new claimants taking up the benefit in 2008 than any other British city. Some 3.2 per cent of Glaswegians began claiming it in 2008, compared with only 1.4 per cent of people in Edinburgh and 1.3 per cent in London.
However, the figures show that, overall, Glasgow has had more success than any other city in reducing the overall numbers of people who claim the benefit, thanks to a growing labour market and more successful "welfare-to-work" programmes.
Nonetheless, experts said the data showed a pressing need for more support for programmes that get the long-term unemployed back to work, not least because of the proven link between worklessness and poor health.
While the numbers on incapacity benefit have fallen over the past decade, more than 2.6 million people in Britain still claim it, high by international standards.
It has in the past been commonly claimed by manual workers with chronic injuries, but the SOWH says the most common reason in Scotland is now mental illness, with 60 per cent of claimants citing "depressive, neurotic anxiety disorders".
Its report found only Liverpool was comparable to Glasgow in the numbers of people on incapacity benefit in 2008. The only region to have higher figures than Glasgow was the south Wales area around Swansea, where thousands of former miners claim it.
Dr Ewan Macdonald, the SOWH director, said: "Worklessness is the biggest cause of health inequality, social exclusion, deprivation and mortality in the country."
Glasgow City Council chiefs said efforts were being made to get more people off the benefit. Big employers had agreed to offer mock interviews to people out of work. The unemployed had also been offered help to take part in Strathclyde Police's training programme.
The city's Glasgow Works programme, which manages the city's welfare-to-work effort, has managed to get 2,000 long-term unemployed people back into jobs over the past 18 months.
City council leader Stephen Purcell said: "Glasgow Works continues to make significant progress in assisting people off benefits and getting them into work.
"These people will receive the support, skills and experience they need to embark on sustainable career path and start a journey leading to a brighter future and a real route out of social exclusion and poverty."