After Age 55, Workplace Stress Seems to Decline

Changing priorities may play a role, but expert urges employers to take heed

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THURSDAY, Oct. 29, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Feeling stressed at work? If you're younger than 50, it might get worse -- at least for a while.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham in England report that stress levels peak when people reach their early 50s but start to dip as they move toward old age.

That's not necessarily good news, either: Work-related stress apparently stays with people into retirement.

The findings come from a new report that analyzed hundreds of research publications from the last two decades.

"Work-related stress is thought to be responsible for more lost working days than any other cause, and it is becoming clear that it is also one factor affecting older workers' willingness and ability to remain in the labor force," the report's lead author, Amanda Griffiths, a professor of occupational health psychology, said in a university news release. "Therefore, protecting tomorrow's older workers, as well as today's, will pay dividends as older workers will form a major part of tomorrow's workforce."

The researchers said their study attempted to fill a gap in research that had focused on workers as a whole and not tended to look at age groups in particular.

They found that people who are older than 50 to 55 could have less stress for several reasons: They might have retired already, gained seniority that offers more control over their work or opted for a less-stressful position.

"As we get older, people's priorities may also change," Griffiths said. "They often have caring responsibilities or wish to spend time with grandchildren and develop other interests. Their work and career may not be their primary drivers."

"Making work attractive and flexible, to allow older people to balance work and their other interests more easily, may be one very important step forward," she said.

More information

The American Institute of Stress has more about stress and health.

SOURCE: University of Nottingham, news release, Oct. 21, 2009

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