All over Europe, there is increased focus on longer working lives due to increased life expectancy and decreased birth rates, which put strains on welfare funding across nations. Although the overall population on average is healthier, better educated and has longer careers than before, there is limited knowledge on the health consequences of prolonged working careers. In addition, recent studies have found increased morbidity among middle-aged individuals, both in the US and in Europe, and the number of healthy life years does not increase quite as much as life expectancy. Improvement in health is more pronounced in groups with higher socioeconomic status. Thus, there is a need to investigate in more detail whether and, if so, for which groups of employees prolonged working careers benefit health.
By means of detailed data on older employees, their work arrangements and work exposures the project will identify which groups of older workers that are especially at risk of health deterioration, and what about their work environment that may be harmful to health. This knowledge will be particularly useful in securing health promoting employment for all older workers. Furthermore, this information will help identifying the occupational groups and industries most at risk.
WP 1: A prospective registry study
In WP1, we will investigate health effects of continued work versus retirement among older employees, particularly focusing on differences between occupational groups, with particular attention to social inequalities in health.
WP 2: A cohort study.
In WP2, we will examine whether there is a health reward from working longer using panel-survey data.
WP 3: A comparative study.
In WP3, we will use registry data to compare the relationship between continued employment and health in the Norway, Denmark and Sweden, including an analysis of the impact of working conditions (the job exposure matrix, JEM) on retirement health outcomes between occupational groups.
Although many underline the health-promoting aspects of work, the research evidence is still scarce. To a large degree, it depends on individual resources as well as career, job and workplace characteristics over the life course. Through innovative use of register data and panel-survey data, we will investigate whether prolonged working careers benefit or harm health.
To our knowledge, the project will be the first to combine register data from primary (e.g. GPs) and secondary (e.g. hospitalizations) health care and prescription data to measure health and change in health among older workers and retirees. When linked to register data on demographics, employment etc., we are able to adjust for a range of other relevant factors influencing retirement and health. The register data enables mapping of detailed work trajectories and health status. The latter allows for identifying the prevalence of (chronic) illness/disease in the total population, both prior to, and after retirement. By using appropriate methods we can describe the causal relationship between work and health for both for those who continue working and those retiring.
By using the job exposure matrix, we will identify the correlation between health and different work exposures (biological, physical, mechanical, psychosocial and organisational factors). In addition, we are able to describe the share beyond 62 years with health problems, and variation in health by occupations, gender and country (Norway, Denmark and Sweden). The combination of registry and survey data also enable a comparison of self-reported and registry based health measures, and the importance of health factors not covered by registry data (health behavior, less serious diseases and self-rated health problems). Similar registry data from three countries will also enable a comparison of the older working population’s health, and how it varies by occupation and gender, and between those working past retirement age and those retiring.