Work Strain and Age Discrimination Among Older Employees – Identifying Challenges for Age-Friendly Work Places

Monday, 11 July 2016: 11:45
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Anna WANKA, Department of Sociology, University of Vienna, Austria
Vera GALLISTL, Department of Sociology, University of Vienna, Austria
Sophie PSIHODA, Department of Sociology, University of Vienna, Austria
Franz KOLLAND, Department of Sociology, University of Vienna, Austria

Facing the challenge of an ageing workforce that has to sustain an increasing number of retirees, governments across Europe take measures to  extend working life. At the same time, however, older employees are increasingly excluded from working life due to physical and psychological strain and corporate age stereotypes. From a sociological perspective, stressful experiences can be traced back to the surrounding social structures and people´s locations within them. On the macro level, these comprise i.a. class, gender and age; on the meso level, arrangements of statuses and roles and on the micro-level social relationships (Pearlin, 2010). Apart from these different contexts we can differentiate between stressors, stress mediators, and stress outcomes. 


A web survey was conducted among older employees (50+) and their managers in organisations in Austria, Germany, Romania and the Netherlands (n=1.250). Data comprises exposure to work-related stressors (i.e. time pressure, age discrimination), mediators (i.e. coping strategies, team support) and psychological and physiological long- and short-term stress outcomes. Based on the results a software system to create age-friendly workplaces is being developed.


Results & Conclusions:

Results show that older employees are exposed to both time-related and social stressors at the workplace and a high percentage expresses symptoms of physical and psychological stress. Positive social relationship at the workplace could buffer these stressors – however, stressors and stress mediators are significantly correlated and often create a ‘triple whammy’ effect (exposure to stressors, lack of social resources and restricted coping), thus increasing social inequalities within the group of older adults. Beyond, data reveals that negative age stereotypes pose a major challenge for creating age-friendly workplaces. Age-friendly workplaces need new forms of leadership with sensitivity to hidden forms of age-discrimination.