Work-related health risks in Europe: Are older workers more vulnerable?
Recent policy reforms in a number of countries are extending working lives and deferring the statutory retirement age. Yet such changes may have profound implications for the well-being of older workers if such individuals are more likely to suffer work-related health problems. Using international data from the European Working Conditions Survey for 2005, we test whether older workers (aged 55–65 years) differ significantly from younger workers across a range of self-reported job-related indicators including health risk perception, mental and physical health, sickness absence, injury and fatigue. We estimate discrete choice (probit) models of the outcomes above for a sample comprising 17,459 individuals in 23 countries, and control for personal, job and work characteristics including exposure to physical, ergonomic and psychosocial risk factors. Our results show that failure to account for both endogeneity and the ‘healthy worker effect’ (sample selection) can lead to misleading inferences. The latter is especially important: only after controlling for selection bias (using a re-weighting approach) do we find older workers are more ‘vulnerable’ than their younger counterparts in the sense of being significantly more likely to perceive each of the various adverse health outcomes above, with the exception of injury. For the remaining indicators, our estimates suggest the magnitude of this difference is substantial: between 5 and 11 percentage points compared with prime age workers, and 8 and 14 points relative to workers aged 15–35, depending on the measure under consideration.
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Volume (Year): 88 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
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