Work Pressures - The Greatest Strains on Physical and Mental Health


There is an increasing trend of people working for longer and delaying their retirement, with some staying in work out of financial necessity.

But one of the primary concerns people have about working beyond their 50s is the impact this could have on their health, or whether any health concerns might prevent them from working. Nearly two in five (37%) workers aged above 50 – equivalent to 3.8 million people [1] – anticipate that problems with their health will be the main factor that forces them into retirement, according to new research [2].

Health and well-being problems

Though the number of workers in this age bracket has risen by more than one million people in the past five years [3], the findings suggest the longevity of this trend is at risk, with many indicating that health and well-being problems are caused or aggravated by the workplace itself.

Work pressures are described by those surveyed as one of the greatest strains on their physical and mental health (21%), alongside money issues (35%) – which are also often linked to working life – and pre-existing medical conditions (24%)

Achieving fuller working lives

Worryingly, more than half (53%) of workers aged over 50 do not feel supported by their employer when it comes to their well-being – a feeling which is much less prevalent among younger colleagues (falling to 34% of workers aged 16–49). As an indication of the type of support employees need to achieve fuller working lives, one in five (21%) agree employers should offer workshops or seminars on health and well-being in later life.

The research also reveals improved health and well-being in the workplace could be achieved by encouraging employees to reassess their priorities, as almost two in five (37%) over-50s workers admit they often put their job above their health and well-being.

The two biggest health challenges

While few people say they do not feel confident about their long-term career plans (27%), 38% are not confident about long-term plans for their health. Greater communication is also needed, as more than a quarter (27%) of those surveyed do not feel comfortable telling their employer about any health issues they face as they grow older.

While the onus is partly on employers to do more to promote health and well-being within the workplace, employees also have a role to play. The two biggest health challenges among employees in the 50-plus age group – weight and diet (24%) and physical fitness (18%) – are both issues that individuals can take steps to improve through lifestyle changes.

Factors which put the greatest strain on employees’ physical and mental health

Top Five All Workers Over 50's workers
Money issues 43% 35%
Pre-existing Medical Conditions 16% 24%
Work Pressures 30% 21%
Family Issues 25% 19%
Poor Diet 15% 12%
Source: Aviva, 2018

Source data:

[1] Based on 37% of the 10.206m over-50s currently in work (source: ONS Labour Market Statistics, August 2018 (latest available figures) – table A05).

[2] Research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Aviva in May 2018. Survey respondents included 2,497 UK adults aged 16º75, including 1,219 aged over 50 of whom 520 are still in work.

[3] ONS Labour Market Statistics, August 2018 (latest available figures) – table A05 shows there were 10.206m over-50s in work between april and june 2018, compared to 8.812m between April and June 2013.

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