Work participation and risk factors for health-related job loss among older workers in the Health and Employment after Fifty (HEAF) study: Evidence from a 2-year follow-up period

Holly E Syddall, Stefania D'Angelo, Georgia Ntani, Martin Stevens, E Clare Harris, Catherine H Linaker, Karen Walker-Bone
PloS One 2020, 15 (9): e0239383

INTRODUCTION: Rapidly increasing population old age dependency ratios create a growing economic imperative for people to work to older ages. However, rates of older worker employment are only increasing slowly. Amongst a cohort of contemporary older workers, we investigated risk factors for health-related job loss (HRJL) over 2 years of follow-up.

METHODS: HEAF is a population based cohort study of adults in England (aged 50-64 years at baseline) who provided information about socio-demographic characteristics, lifestyle, and work at baseline and annual follow-ups. Exits from paid work were mapped and risk factors for HRJL explored in a multiple-record survival dataset by Cox proportional hazards models.

RESULTS: 2475 (75%) men and 2668 (66%) women were employed; 115 (4.6%) men and 182 (6.8%) women reported HRJL. Employment as road transport drivers/in vehicle trades (men), or as teaching/education/nursing/midwifery professionals or in caring personal services (women), was more frequent among people exiting work for health-related versus non-health-related reasons. Principal socio-demographic and lifestyle risk factors for HRJL were: struggling financially (men and women); low physical activity (men); being overweight or obese, and current smoking (women). Mutually adjusted work-related risk factors for HRJL were job dissatisfaction, and not coping with the physical (hazard ratio [95% confidence interval]: men 5.34[3.40,8.39]; women 3.73[2.48,5.60]) or mental demands (women only, 2.02[1.38,2.96]) of work.

CONCLUSIONS: Employment characteristics of contemporary older workers differ by sex. Job satisfaction and perceived ability to cope with the physical and mental demands of work are key determinants of HRJL which employers could potentially influence to enable work to older ages.

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