Musculoskeletal pain affects the age of retirement and the risk of work cessation among older people

Nils Georg Niederstrasser, Elaine Wainwright, Martin J Stevens

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Objectives: Many people with chronic pain cannot work, while working despite chronic pain is linked to absenteeism and presenteeism and a host of other deleterious effects. This disproportionately affects older adults, who are closer to retirement, while the exact relationship between pain and work cessation as well as retirement among older adults is not known. We explore longitudinally the relationship between chronic pain and the risk of ceasing work and entering retirement.

Methods: Data from 1156 individuals 50 years or older living in England taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing were used in this study. Cox proportional hazards regression analyses were used to examine the nature of the relationship between musculoskeletal pain and work cessation as well as retirement longitudinally over the course of fourteen years.

Results: Suffering from frequent musculoskeletal pain was associated with an increased risk of ceasing work and retiring at an earlier age, as did work dissatisfaction, higher perceived social status, female gender, and not receiving the recognition they felt they deserved in their job. Severity of depressive symptoms, psychosocial job demands, decision authority, and social support did not influence the age at which participants reported work cessation or retirement.

Conclusions: Frequent musculoskeletal pain may increase the risk of earlier work exit and earlier retirement. Further research should establish the mechanisms and decision making involved in leaving the workforce in people with frequent musculoskeletal pain.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0297155
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2024

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