Older workers are the healthy 'survivors' of the workplace

21 Oct 2009 16:05:00.000

PA 271/09

Experts at The University of Nottingham say our stress levels at work peak when we reach about 50 to 55 years of age and decrease as we head towards retirement.


In the first comprehensive report into age related stress and health at work to be carried out in Britain researchers from the Institute of Work, Health and Organisations also found that the effects of stress in our working lives can stay with us well into retirement.


The research, led by Amanda Griffiths, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology, reviewed hundreds of publications from the last 20 years. Professor Griffiths, said: “Work related stress is thought to be responsible for more lost working days than any other cause and it is becoming clear that it is also one factor affecting older workers’ willingness and ability to remain in the labour force. Therefore, protecting tomorrow’s older workers, as well as today’s, will pay dividends, as older workers will form a major part of tomorrow’s workforce.”

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Many of us are likely to be working much longer than we expected. Until now the majority of reviews of research into work-related stress — its causes and its effects — have been based on large groups of workers and very rarely distinguished by age. This report, for TAEN — The Age and Employment Network, Age Concern and Help the Aged, aimed to address that gap.


This new research suggests that the reason studies show smaller number of workers report high stress levels once in their 50s might be because they have left stressful posts in favour of something less demanding; they already have retired voluntarily or because of ill health; or increasing seniority can give staff more control over their working life which makes it less stressful. The report says this makes older staff the healthy ‘survivors’ of the workplace.


Chris Ball, TAEN Chief Executive, said: “This report fills an important gap in our understanding of how stressful work can impact upon people towards the end of their working lives and into retirement.  Demographic change and ageing populations have made extending working life a priority both in the UK and elsewhere.  Clearly, we have to consider the kind of work people do and every aspect of the working environment with a view to removing stressors where we possibly can.  TAEN and our sister charity, Age Concern and Help the Aged, sincerely hope this report will influence thinking and practice, so the casual acceptance of work-created mental ill health, permeating into older age, becomes a thing of the past.”


The report suggests that stress could be eased by giving older staff more control over their job; better recognition for the contribution they make; increased flexible working; and improvements in social support.


Professor Griffiths said: “As we get older people’s priorities may also change; they often have caring responsibilities, or wish to spend time with grandchildren and develop other interests. Their work and career may not be their primary drivers. Making work attractive and flexible — to allow older people to balance work and their other interests more easily may be one very important step forward”.  She suggests that such investments in the quality of people’s ‘third age’ — their life after retirement — should be made during working life, not just afterwards.  


Details of the report “Ageing, Work-related Stress and Health”, will be announced at 2pm on Wednesday October 21 2009 at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, 1 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1.


The event will be attended by Chris Ball, Chief Executive, TAEN and Professor Amanda Griffiths.


— Ends —







Notes to editors

: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.


The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.


Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.


TAEN — The Age and Employment Network works to promote an effective job market that serves the needs of people in mid and later life, employers and the economy. TAEN is a network organisation.  Its members include a wide range of organisations from across the labour market, including employers, professional bodies, unions and many others. TAEN informs and advocates for effective age management policies at all levels and is an important source of information on everything relating to age and employment issues.  Additionally, TAEN works with leading research, labour market and other bodies in the UK and internationally to promote innovative employment practice and age diversity.

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Amanda Griffiths on +44 (0)115 846 6637, amanda.griffiths@nottingham.ac.uk; or Patricia Orr on +44 (0)207 592 1972 or mobile 07889 140 139, patricia.orr@thirdsectorpr.co.uk; or Corinna Stowell on +44 (0)207 239 1876 or mobile 07909 711 333, Corinna.Stowell@taen.org.uk

Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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