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Wednesday, 30 July 2008 18:16

Work, don't retire, to stay healthier, according to Australian study

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A 2004-05 study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that workers have lower rates of arthritis and cardiovascular disease when compared to retirees--all in the same age range. Overall, older workers reported being in better general health than retirees.


Health data and labor force statistics were taken from the "ABS 2004-05 National Health Survey" (NHS), along with other ABS surveys and reports. Their conclusions is part of the report “Health of Mature Age Workers in Australia: A Snapshot,” which was conducted on workers and retirees between the ages of 45 and 74 years.

The Snapshot report specifically stated, “Ill health can impact on a person's quality of life and their ability to participate productively in the labour force. As people age, there is often an increase in the number of long-term conditions … they may have, with many conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis or osteoporosis particularly associated with older age groups. These diseases are three of eight conditions named as National Health Priority Areas (NHPAs) … – arthritis or osteoporosis and musculoskeletal conditions, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, injury, mental health and obesity - chosen because of their significant contribution to the burden of disease and injury in Australia.”

In all, the ABS researchers looked at asthma, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and mental health problems--the National Health Priority Areas (specifically because of their "burden of disease and injury in Australia"). They took into account people who were too sick to work, unable to work for physical reasons, not in the workforce, and other such related factors.

They found, specifically, that arthritis and cardiovascular (heart) disease was found in about 25% of all older workers surveyed, while the two diseases were found in about 50% of retirees. In addition, only one in ten retirees were reported to be free of any of the eight chronic medical conditions.

The study, however, found that approximately the same percentages of obesity and being overweight in workers and retirees. Denise Carlton, the ABS director of social statistics, stated, "Interestingly though, rates of obesity were pretty much the same regardless of whether you are working or not.” [The Age: “80% of older workers have disease: study”]

Generally, 80% of older workers and 90% of retirees reported some type of chronic health condition. Overall, 56% of workers and 31% of retirees reported their health as being “very good” or “excellent.”

Please read page two for additional information on the health of workers and retirees in Australia, which is probably also valid in other countries, too.




On the other hand, workers reported that they had more back problems and back problems then compared to retirees.

In addition, about 7% of all subjects reported that they had such conditions as asthma, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, or mental problems directly due to their work or due to conditions relating to their work.

The study also found that workers in metropolitan areas (like the capital cities in Australia) reported less problems than those workers in rural areas, especially those rural areas considered the poorest (most disadvantaged) in the nation.

Professional workers reported less chronic health problems than non-professional (such as workers of the trades) workers. It was reported that financial security is the major reason when deciding whether to retire or not, but health factors also play a significant role in the decision. Carlton states, "That may be why the health of professionals is slightly better than tradespeople, because they earn more and can decide when they want to retire.” [The Age]

Whether retired or working, and whether old or young, Carlton adds, "In all, these conditions are significant contributors to the burden of disease in Australia.” [The Age].

The report adds, “In recent decades life expectancy has been increasing, and people are remaining in the labour force longer. Maintaining good health supports participation in the labour force and increased participation contributes to a stronger economy.”

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