Researchers study the effects of work on aging

March 25, 2014 by Chris Defrancesco, University of Connecticut

Work, and the toll it takes on us as we age, is the focus of a group of UConn Health researchers wrapping up a study of the aging workforce.

The Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW) at UConn Health, led by Dr. Martin Cherniack, professor of medicine, is pulling data from a prospective—meaning it follows a group of people over time—study of more than 1,000 employees working in manufacturing jobs in Connecticut.

"There is nothing quite like this nationally and we are trying to find a funding agency that will take interest in a longer-term maintenance of this group through their working years and into retirement," Cherniack says. "Perhaps the most interesting finding has been the effect of the economy from 2008 to 2013 on an aging workforce. The effects are very large and not studied."

A study that started five and a half years ago, coinciding with the 2008 economic downturn, found a dramatic increase in perceived psychological strain and apprehension about family finances. Physical demands were found to be largely unchanged.

In a study of job insecurity, defined as a perceived threat to the continuance of employment, data show adverse effects on retirement expectations as well as stress, work performance, sleep quality, and -related sleep difficulty.

Other areas include:

Measuring the work environment's "social resources" (civility and support from supervisors and coworkers), their influence on workers' well-being, and whether is a factor.

Comparing how old a worker feels compared to his or her true age, categorized by gender and age group over a three-year period, to lead to further analysis considering work demands, work conditions, non-work conditions and health.

Assessing effects of work and non-work factors on age-related changes in musculoskeletal function and health using surveys and physical testing, the goal being to determine reference values for physical performance measures. This study is published in the journal Human Factors.

Cherniack says the research was designed to identify patterns of adverse health in early middle age that would predict early disability and health related retirement. What it's uncovered so far suggests that, in addition to further study, there are specific interventions that can be directed to at-risk members of the middle age and older working population.

"This information remains central to targeted preventive health interventions," he says. "What we did not anticipate was the rapid and profound changes in attitude among older Connecticut workers, characterized by uncertainty over working conditions and uncertainty over economic well-being and health care. We also did not anticipate the high level of eldercare obligations and its physical cost in this group. What we don't know is whether these patterns will persist and whether it will translate into poorer health for the middle class."

Explore further: Mentally challenging jobs may keep your mind sharp long after retirement

More information: Mark Cote, Anne Kenny, Jeffrey Dussetschleger, Dana Farr, Ashok Chaurasia, and Martin Cherniack. "Reference Values for Physical Performance Measures in the Aging Working Population." Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society February 2014 56: 228-242, DOI: 10.1177/0018720813518220

Related Stories

Mentally challenging jobs may keep your mind sharp long after retirement

March 25, 2014
A mentally demanding job may stress you out today but can provide important benefits after you retire, according to a new study.

Could restless sleep cause widespread pain in older folks?

February 13, 2014
Researchers in the U.K. report that non-restorative sleep is the strongest, independent predictor of widespread pain onset among adults over the age of 50. According to the study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology (formerly ...

Education, finances affect risk of heart disease more for women than men

March 20, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Low levels of education and financial assets have long been linked to increased risks of cardiovascular disease. But a new University of Michigan study shows that the association is much greater for middle-aged ...

Growing number of seniors caring for other seniors

January 7, 2014
Burgeoning demand for senior services like home health aides is being met by a surprising segment of the workforce: Other seniors.

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.