stay in work for health

Could work be the key to better health?


People between the ages of 50 and 70 should consider if there’s a case for them to stay in work for health reasons, as it may increase their chances of remaining healthy, according to the chief medical officer of England. This announcement has been made following a recent study into the health of the Baby Boom generation.


The Report

This study looked into several different social, work and health lifestyle factors which affect this age group.

After these factors were identified, the study provided a number of recommendations of how Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) can improve their physical, emotional and sexual wellbeing and what society can do to help.

The report was commissioned and partly authored by England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies. Speaking about the study, she said that working helps people to feel fulfilled and less isolated as they get older and that the benefits of employment should not be underestimated.


Baby Boomers

The term ‘Baby Boomers’ is often used to describe the generation born roughly within 20 years after the end of World War II. This period got the name ‘Baby Boom’ due to the fact that the average family size increased immensely during these two decades.

In fact, more babies were born in 1946 than had ever been born before. This increase continued every year, right up until 1964, when the boom came to an end. Today, the children of the Baby Boom are between 50 and 70 years old.


The UK’s Ageing Population

Thanks to the vast improvements which have been made in healthcare and living conditions over the years, people today are living longer than ever before. In 2014, 8% of Britain’s population were over the age of 75 and by the year 2039, this number is expected to rise to 13%.

As a result, the UK’s workforce is also getting older. At the moment, around three quarters of people between the ages of 50 and retirement age and 12% of those above retirement age are still in active employment.

It is believed that the number of over 50s still working will rise by one third by the year 2020.


Health Concerns for Over-50s

Many of the improvements made in medicine have greatly benefitted the Baby Boom generation. For example, cancer care for over 50s is much more successful than it was just 20 years ago.

However, while life expectancy has been extended, there are still several issues causing concern for this age group. One in three British Baby Boomers is classified as obese, this is down to a series of lifestyle factors such as poor diet and lack of exercise.

According to Professor Davies, the study found that two thirds of 50-70 year olds had not done 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise within the past month and Type 2 Diabetes has shot up 97% in men since 1990. The study also found that 42% of employed 50-70 year olds are living with at least one health condition or disability.

It’s not just physical health which is an issue for this generation. Around 18% of Baby Boomers are currently living with some form of depression or anxiety and the suicide rate is highest among men in their 50s.


How Staying In Work Can Help

An entire chapter of Professor Davies’ report focused on the links between work and health. She believes that working, or even volunteering, can ensure members of this at-risk age group stay physically and mentally fit for longer.

A routine which involves regularly getting out of the house, interacting with people and taking on new challenges is a great way to avoid loneliness and isolation. The physical activity that comes with working can help to combat weight gain and the health issues that come with obesity.

As we get older, taking good care of ourselves becomes increasingly important. In order to enjoy old age in good health, it is essential that the years between 50 and 70 are spent eating well, keeping as physically active as possible and staying socially engaged. The recent discovery that work and health could be more closely connected than previously realised shows that remaining in employment is one productive way to achieve these aims.

If you’re aged between 50-70 and concerned about any aspect of your health raised in this article, make sure you book an appointment with your GP.