Psychosocial working conditions and late-life physical functioning: What role do gender, socioeconomic position, work-life balance, and coping mechanisms play?

PI: Ingemar Kåreholt, ingemar.kareholt@ki.se

Late-life physical functioning is related to quality of life, independence, well-being, and societal costs for care. Because the older population is growing rapidly, we need to identify factors that influence the different patterns of function observed in older age groups. Late-life health reflects cumulative effects of environmental and personal influences experienced over the life course. One such influence is work, where most adults spend a considerable amount of time. Therefore, psychosocial working conditions may be an essential target for preventive strategies that help people maintain health into older adulthood.

The main purpose of this project is to examine long-term consequences of psychosocial working conditions, such as work stress and work complexity, on physical functioning in people aged 69 and above. The project uses longitudinal data that span nearly five decades (1968-2014) and that come from the nationally representative Swedish Level of Living Survey and the Swedish Panel Study of Living Conditions of the Oldest Old.

The proportion of people with adequate function decreases with age, and women have more limitations than men. There are also differences in the working lives of women and men. A first step toward better understanding the role gender (the social and cultural construct) plays in the link between psychosocial working conditions and late-life physical functioning is to investigate the link separately in women and in men. It is also important to keep in mind that gender roles have changed over time. For example, gender differences in employment and occupations have changed over the past five decades, as have the ways men and women combine job and family responsibilities. Additionally, we will examine how associations between psychosocial working conditions and late-life physical functioning varied in women and men of different socioeconomic positions the role that personal resources (e.g. sense of coherence, social support, and lifestyle) played. Finally, we will use the results that emerge from this project to predict trends on the physical functioning of older adults up to 2030.

This project is funded by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.