This thesis aimed to contribute to the understanding of the role of decreased work ability and ill health on work participation and work performance of older workers. The longitudinal study on the role of four different health measures on exit from paid employment among workers aged 50 to 63 years old in 11 European countries showed, that controlling for individual and work related characteristics, poor self-perceived health was strongly associated with exit from paid employment. Focus group interviews (n=32) additionally showed that poor health and poor work circumstances are important in decisions to retire early, but social support and appreciative leadership style may be buffers in this process. Regarding determinants of work ability a literature review and cross-sectional analysis among white-collar workers was conducted. The literature review showed that factors associated with poor work ability index identified in 20 studies, were lack of leisure-time vigorous physical activity, older age, obesity, high mental and physical work demands. Among white-collar workers (n=1141) work ability was strongly associated with psychosocial factors at work, such as teamwork, stress handling, and self-development and, to a lesser extent, with stressful life events, lack of physical activity, and obesity. Decreased work ability had considerable consequences for sickness absence and productivity loss at work. Analyses on interactions showed that the negative effects on work performance of decreased work ability may be partly counterbalanced by enlarging workers’ possibilities to plan and pace their own activities at work.

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A. Burdorf (Alex)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (The Netherlands), Erasmus MC Rotterdam, Consulo BV (Rotterdam)
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van den Berg, T.I.J. (2010, October 29). The role of work ability and health on sustaining employability. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from