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Inability to Work at Midlife is Ominous

According to a new Canadian study, poor work ability in midlife may be associated with an accelerated deterioration of health and functioning in old age.

In a 28-year follow-up population-based study, Finnish researchers studied middle-aged white-collar and blue-collar employees to see if a person’s work ability in midlife might predict their risk of death or disability.

In 1981, a total of 5,971 employees aged 44-58 reported on their perceived work ability as part of a longitudinal study hosted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. By 2009, altogether 1,918 persons had died and the ability to perform daily activities was assessed among 2,879 respondents.

“We found that work ability in midlife predicted decline in health and functioning among men and women during the 28-year follow-up even after adjustments for health and lifestyle factors,” wrote Dr. Mikaela von Bonsdorff, a co-author of the study.

“The risks showed similar gradients among blue- and white-collar employees, but the risk of death was generally higher among blue-collar employees.”

The authors concluded that “perceived work ability in midlife correlates with mortality among blue-collar and white-collar employees, and work ability in midlife predicts disability in old age.  It is plausible that a person’s capacity to perform activities in relation to the demands posed by their age-appropriate role in society tracks through decades.

The current work ability of middle-aged employees could therefore be considered as an early predictor of functioning in old age.”

The research is found in a study published in Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Source: Canadian Medical Association Journal

Inability to Work at Midlife is Ominous

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Inability to Work at Midlife is Ominous. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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