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Older workers’ health: Finding the right job fit matters, researchers say

Photo: Stígur Már Karlsson/Heimsmyndir/iStockphoto

Houston — For older workers, the right job fit can benefit overall health and well-being, while a poor fit is more likely to push them into retirement, according to researchers from Rice University and Colorado State University.

The researchers studied 383 workers at least 51 years old, along with retirees who participated in the Cognition and Aging in the USA study between 2007 and 2014. The participants included professionals in construction, transportation, business, finance, engineering, architecture, arts and entertainment, media, and sports.

After analyzing data on cognitive abilities and job demands, the researchers found that the workers whose reasoning abilities matched well with their job demands reported fewer chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, arthritis, memory-related diseases, and emotional or psychiatric issues.

Conversely, when the workers could not keep up with the reasoning demands of their work, the likelihood of them staying on the job rather than retiring fell 34%.


Study lead author Margaret Beier, a psychological sciences professor at Rice, said the findings have implications on designing work to help keep employees engaged past the typical retirement age.

“This is particularly important given that the average age of workers in the U.S. is increasing,” Beier said in an Aug. 13 press release from Rice. “Mature workers are a great benefit to the workforce by sharing their knowledge and mentoring younger workers.”

The study was published online Aug. 12 in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

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