Work characteristics and health in older workers: Educational inequalities

Sascha de Breij*, Martijn Huisman, Dorly J.H. Deeg

*Corresponding author for this work

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To be able to extend working lives, maintaining good health in older workers is important. The aim of the present study was to identify which work characteristics are associated with physical and mental health outcomes in older workers in the Netherlands, and particularly whether there are educational differences in these associations. We used longitudinal tobit and ordered logistic regression analyses to examine the associations between physical demands, psychosocial demands, variation in tasks, autonomy, and job strain and self-rated health (SRH), functional limitations, and depressive symptoms. We included interaction terms between the work characteristics and education to examine effect modification by education. We found that high physical demands, low variation in tasks, low autonomy, and high job strain were associated with poorer physical and mental health. We found evidence for educational differences in the exposure to these work characteristics, as well as in the strengths of their associations with health, with lower educated workers being disadvantaged. The associations between physical demands (SRH: OR = 3.70 (95%CI:1.92;7.11); functional limitations: B = 1.27 (95%CI:.47;2.07)), autonomy (SRH: OR = .42(95% CI:.26;.69)), and job strain (active job; SRH: OR = .25 (95%CI:.09;.69); functional limitations: B = -1.51 (95%CI:-2.68;-.34), and health were strongest in the lower educated workers. In order to maintain good health in older workers and reduce health inequalities, it is recommended to implement workplace interventions to improve working conditions, especially among the lower educated workers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0241051
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10 October 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

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