Is being in paid work beyond state pension age beneficial for health? Evidence from England

Giorgio Di Gessa, London School of Economics and Political Science
Laurie Corna, King's College London
Loretta Platts, Stockholm University
Diana Worts, University of Toronto
Peggy McDonough, University of Toronto
Debora J. Price, King's College London
Karen F. Glaser, King's College London

Background: Given the current policy emphasis on longer working lives we investigated the health effects of being in paid work beyond the state pension age (SPA). To date, work has largely focused on the health of those who exited the labour force early. Methods: Using multivariate analysis we investigated the longitudinal associations between being in paid work beyond SPA and a latent measure of physical health among men aged 65-74 and women aged 60-69 (N~2000), controlling for previous health and socio-economic characteristics as well as work histories and health in adulthood. Nationally representative longitudinal data were drawn from waves 2, 3 and 4, and from the life history of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Results: Approximately one in five older adults (21%) was in paid work beyond SPA, with a greater proportion of women (25%) than men (15%). Being in paid work beyond SPA was associated with higher education, with being in the highest wealth and income quintile, as well as with better health throughout the lifespan. Descriptive bivariate analyses suggested that both men and women in paid work were more likely to report better health at follow-up, particularly if they held part-time jobs, and worked in managerial and sedentary occupations. However, once baseline socio-economic characteristics as well as adulthood and baseline health were accounted for, the health benefits of working beyond SPA were no longer significant. Conclusions: Potential health benefits of working beyond the SPA need to be considered in light of the fact that it is those who report good health and who are more socio-economically advantaged who are much more likely to be working beyond SPA in the first place. Our findings suggest that government policies designed to extend working lives may not have uniform effects across social groups, with little benefits in health terms.

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Presented in Session 89: Health in contexts