Workers’ health begins to decline at 59, study finds

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The average employee’s health begins to decline at 59 years old, according to a large-scale study.

Researchers at Keele University and Newcastle University found that, on average, people in England can expect to be healthy and in work for almost nine-and-a-half years after age 50. However, within this nine-and-a-half year period, they sometimes temporarily leave work or experience health problems.

Based on data from 15,284 people aged 50 or over in England, who were interviewed on several occasions between 2002 and 2013, they found the average “healthy working life expectancy” after age 50 was higher for men (10.94 years) than women (8.25 years).

Those in non-manual or self-employed occupations, such as office work, were also likely to remain healthy and in work longer after age 50 than those in manual jobs, such as electricians or care workers.

Longer healthy working lives were also found in the south of England, especially in the South East (10.73 years), while the North East had the shortest post-50 healthy working life expectancy (7.34 years).

Those with higher levels of education were also likely to remain healthy in work longer, the study, published in The Lancet Public Health, found.

Lead author Marty Parker, from Keele University’s School of Primary, Community and Social Care, said: “Healthy working life expectancy from age 50 is below the remaining years to State Pension age. While everyone’s lives are different, our results suggest that many people will find it challenging to work for longer as the State Pension age goes up.

“Poor health and a lack of appropriate job opportunities are a major reason for early retirement, sickness absence from work and reduced productivity while at work. Older workers – especially those in more deprived areas and in manual jobs – will benefit from proactive approaches to improve health and workplace environments.”

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