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Work-related health risks in Europe: Are older workers more vulnerable?


  • Jones, Melanie K.
  • Latreille, Paul L.
  • Sloane, Peter J.
  • Staneva, Anita V.


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jones, Melanie K. & Latreille, Paul L. & Sloane, Peter J. & Staneva, Anita V., 2013. "Work-related health risks in Europe: Are older workers more vulnerable?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 18-29.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:88:y:2013:i:c:p:18-29 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.03.027

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anthony Arundel & Edward Lorenz & Bengt-Åke Lundvall & Antoin Valeyre, 2006. "The Organization of Work and Innovative Performance A comparison of the EU-15," DRUID Working Papers 06-14, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
    2. Newey, Whitney K., 1987. "Efficient estimation of limited dependent variable models with endogenous explanatory variables," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 231-250, November.
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    5. Lixin Cai & Guyonne Kalb, 2006. "Health status and labour force participation: evidence from Australia," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(3), pages 241-261.
    6. Bound, John & Schoenbaum, Michael & Stinebrickner, Todd R. & Waidmann, Timothy, 1999. "The dynamic effects of health on the labor force transitions of older workers," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 179-202, June.
    7. Rivers, Douglas & Vuong, Quang H., 1988. "Limited information estimators and exogeneity tests for simultaneous probit models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 347-366, November.
    8. Cottini, Elena & Lucifora, Claudio, 2010. "Mental Health and Working Conditions in European Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 4717, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. W. Kip Viscusi, 2004. "The Value of Life: Estimates with Risks by Occupation and Industry," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 42(1), pages 29-48, January.
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    1. repec:spr:eujhec:v:19:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10198-017-0867-9 is not listed on IDEAS


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