Long-Term Effects of Job Strain and Mental Health in Midlife on Early Labour Market Exit

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ewan CARR, Epidemiology & Public Health, University College London, United Kingdom
Jenny HEAD, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, UK., United Kingdom
Higher life expectancy and persistently low birth rates has resulted in population ageing across European countries. The consequent increase in old-age dependency ratios (persons aged 65+ as a proportion of persons aged 20-64) presents a serious challenge to the fiscal sustainability of old age pension systems. In response, many governments have sought to delay statutory retirement ages and extend working life (beyond age 50). Several studies have shown stressful or demanding working conditions in midlife (around age 45) to predict early retirement. Similarly, poor mental health has consistently been linked with early labour market exit. However, few studies have considered the interaction of job characteristics and mental health, and none from a cross-national perspective.

            This study draws upon three longitudinal occupational cohorts from England, Finland and France (with follow-up between 1985 and 2013). The psychosocial work environment (measured with the Karasek job content questionnaire) and mental health (measured using GHQ and CES-D) are measured repeatedly during midlife. We then estimate the additive and interactive associations with timing of labour market exit at ages 50+.

In the Whitehall II cohort, both job control and poor mental health were independent predictors of labour market exit. However, the effect of poor mental health on labour market exit was similar for people with low and high job control, supporting only the additive – but not interactive – relationships between mental health and work characteristics. Initiatives that enhance mental health among older workers and improve the psychosocial work environment (e.g. reduced demand, increased control) may contribute towards European policy goals of extended working life.