Arthritis significantly impairs healthy working life expectancy, research finds
Age-associated conditions such as osteoarthritis pose a huge barrier to people remaining healthy and in work for longer, according to new research.
Led by Dr Marty Lynch from Keele’s School of Medicine, the study sought to understand the impact of osteoarthritis on health working life expectancy (HWLE) – the average amount of time that people can expect to remain healthy and in work.
People’s working lives and retirement ages are being extended in response to an ageing population, but this study, published in Scientific Reports, found that osteoarthritis, which is a common musculoskeletal condition in adults aged 50 and over, is associated with a significant reduction on healthy working lives.
The researchers compared HWLE in people with and without osteoarthritis from ages 50 and 65, both on a national level and in the local region of North Staffordshire. To do this, they looked at mortality and survey data for people from aged 50 and 65 obtained from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), and from three time points of the North Staffordshire Osteoarthritis Project (NorStOP).
They found that osteoarthritis was linked to significantly reduced HWLE across all age groups; at age 50 the average number of years that people with osteoarthritis could be healthy and in work is over a third less than for those age 50 without osteoarthritis. The level of reduction was similar at national and local level, but the number of years that people were healthy and in work was considerably less in North Staffordshire than the national estimate.
Lead author Dr Lynch said: “These results indicate the extent of the difference in healthy working life for people with a common health condition compared to those who do not have long term conditions and that local and regional differences for health and job opportunities can have a major impact on working lives.”
Co-author Dr Ross Wilkie added: “Whilst the study highlights the reduced healthy working life expectancy for people with osteoarthritis, the differences between areas and occupation types suggests that there is potential for this to increase. Policies to encourage “good work” and health promotion in workers, and approaches to facilitating working practice can have a positive impact on maintaining health and work participation when people have health conditions.”
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