“Shockingly prevalent” ageist attitudes damaging worker well-being

“Shockingly prevalent” ageist attitudes damaging worker well-being

The health and well-being of UK workers is being damaged by “abundant” and “often unchallenged” ageism in the workplace and across society, a new report has found.

The study, published by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, suggests that the perception an individual has over their aging has a significant impact on their health. In particular, it can affect the likelihood of developing dementia and following a balanced diet, as well as the speed of a patient’s recovery following a cardiovascular event.

The report also highlights evidence that life expectancy may also be affected by a person’s perceptions about getting older: those with a positive outlook can expect to live on average 7.5 years longer than those with a negative one.

In a survey of some 2,000 people, the study also found that around 75% of people believed that physical health problems associated with aging would hold them back from doing the things they enjoy. Meanwhile, a third suggested that they viewed long-term illness as an accepted part of getting older.

Amongst the recommendations made, the report calls for workforce training about ageism and mandating age-neutral language within the recruitment process, as well as further workplace changes that include the introduction of statutory carers’ leave for employees with caring responsibilities, and ensuring that employees have access to flexible and remote working.

Discussing these recommendations, Andrew Barnett, Director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) commented: “Employers could certainly benefit from hosting these interventions by increasing the retention and productivity of their workers, as well as an external reputation of being a mindful employer, but also in understanding they are playing their part in supporting healthier and happier later lives in the communities in which they operate.”

Writing in IZA World of Labor, Carol Graham says that the well-being of older workers: “Late-life workers under voluntary part- or full-time arrangements, have higher levels of well-being (in some dimensions) than retirees.”  

She continues: “Higher levels of well-being are in turn associated with better health and greater productivity, suggesting that the benefits of such arrangements could extend beyond the individual to society.”

Read more articles on retirement and late-life work.

For specific expertise on late-life work get in touch directly with Matteo Picchio.