Last reviewed 18 November 2020

The British Medical Association (BMA) has published a new report on the impacts associated with older workers, highlighting common myths and stereotypes as well as information about older workers’ health and safety needs, and recommended employment practices.

There are more over-50s in employment in the UK than ever before. In August, over 1.2 million people were working beyond the age of 65.

In addition, low birth rates and increasing life expectancy means there will be fewer younger people available for work and people working until later in life. (This also raises questions about pressures on pension adequacy.)

Occupational physicians deal with many issues from both employees and employers as a consequence of the UK workforce getting older.

For workers to remain productive, there must be a good fit between work demands, their working environment and their bio-psychosocial needs.

Health depends on many more factors other than age, including lifestyle, job tenure and physical demands.

While health is a determinant of how long people continue to work, there are also emotional, personal and financial factors to consider. For example, work brings many benefits including self-esteem, companionship and a salary.

Therefore, the report notes, many factors will influence a person’s decision to retire or to continue to work including the employment status of an employee’s partner, caring responsibilities, hobbies and interests, relationships at and outside of work and financial security.

The report concludes that chronological age is not the most important determinant of health, and ageing does not inevitably lead to illness — work demands and psychosocial factors may have a greater influence on the risk of developing work-related ill health than age.

Although the risk of long-term conditions may increase with age, the majority of older workers enjoy good health and most people who have long-term conditions or disabilities continue to work.

The report is available on the BMA website.