A research study has found that women in the latter stages of their working lives are more likely to leave the workforce due to depression and arthritis than men of the same age.

The study, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, looked at chronic health conditions and how they predicted later life exit from employment due to disability for men and women.

The study focused on a group of employees aged between 50 and 70 years and found that lung disease, cancer and arthritis were the strongest factors affecting the risk of chronic conditions causing the end of employment due to disability.

However, depressive symptoms were also a strong factor, and, along with arthritis, explained a greater proportion of women than men’s exits from employment.

Pain but also various types of functional limitations were important factors in ending employment as well as being issues in their own right.

The author of the study Dr Daniel Holman said the results suggest that gender differences in the prevalence of different chronic conditions result in differences in the proportion of disability employment exits.

He added that targeted and tailored interventions in the workplace might take this into account and potentially be helpful.

Comment by David Price, CEO and wellbeing expert at Health Assured

According to most forecasts, the average person will be expected to work much later in life than in previous generations. While this is good news for employers who are able to keep experienced staff on board for longer, it will only be possible if enough effort is made to prevent medical conditions impairing workplace performance.

As conditions such as arthritis tend to occur later on in life employers should be looking at putting practices in place that reduce the debilitating impact these can have on staff. While considerable efforts often go into recruiting and training the best young talent, a similar focus should go on retaining valuable older employees and addressing any factors that may be pushing them into unnecessary retirement.

Older employers often bring with them a lifetime of experience that can set them apart from younger colleagues, as well as superior practical skills to those who may be just starting out on their career. Because of this, older employers tend to make ideal workplace mentors, helping show new starters “the ropes” and encouraging their development.

Last reviewed 2 August 2019