Friday, November 20, 2009

Research Suggests Employers Need to Shape Workplace to Fit Health Needs of Older Workers

Published results of an investigation of 14,714 employees from the French national gas and electricity company, the GAZEL cohort, for up to 7 years before and 7 years after retirement, has found that suboptimum health increased with age, but that between the year before retirement and the year after, the estimated prevalence of suboptimum health fell from 19·2% to 14·3%, corresponding to a gain in health of 8—10 years. However, people with a combination of high occupational grade, low demands, and high satisfaction at work showed no such retirement-related improvement.

The researchers note in their article "Self-rated health before and after retirement in France (GAZEL): a cohort study" published in The Lancet that they conducted the investigation since governments need to increase the proportion of the population in work in most developed countries because of ageing populations. The results led them to conclude that the burden of ill-health, in terms of perceived health problems, is substantially relieved by retirement for all groups of workers apart from those with ideal working conditions, and that working life for older workers needs to be redesigned to achieve higher labour-market participation.

According the report, a poor work environment and health complaints before retirement were associated with a steeper yearly increase in the prevalence of suboptimum health while still in work, and a greater retirement-related improvement. However, only about 2% of workers were in the "ideal" circumstances of having a combination of high occupational grade, low demands, and high satisfaction at work.

Sources: Medical News Today "Better Working Conditions And Job Satisfaction In Order To Keep Older Workers In The Workforce (GAZEL Study)" (November 9, 2009); eZonomics "Late is the new early for retirement" (November 18, 2009); Reuters Blog "Health and the older worker" (November 19, 2009)

A parallel report on the sleep habits of these workers was published in the journal Sleep. According to that article, retirement is followed by a sharp decrease in the prevalence of sleep disturbances, likely resulting from the removal of work-related demands and stress rather than from actual health benefits of retirement. The postretirement improvement in sleep was more pronounced in men, management-level workers, employees who reported high psychological job demands, and people who occasionally or consistently worked night shifts.

Source: ScienceDaily "Sleep Disturbances Improve After Retirement" (November 2, 2009)

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