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Updated 10:00 AM November 19, 2007




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Study: Many older workers stress less

Older workers generally report low levels of work-related stress, according to a University study of a nationally representative sample of older workers.

Presented in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, the study is based on 2006 data from 1,544 participants in the U-M Health and Retirement Study, conducted by the Institute for Social Research (ISR) and funded by the National Institute on Aging.

By the year 2010 middle-aged and older workers are expected to outnumber their younger colleagues, making their physical and emotional well-being a growing concern for U.S. employers.

For the analysis, ISR researcher Gwenith Fisher, Quinnipiac University researcher Carrie Bulger and colleagues examined the prevalence of different kinds of job stressors reported by participants between the ages 53-85. They also examined how those stressors relate to workers' life satisfaction and physical health. All participants worked at least 20 hours per week.

Slightly more than half of the participants were male, 87 percent were white, about 8 percent were black and 7 percent were Hispanic. On average, they had about 14 years of education.

"In general, older workers did not report high levels of work-related stressors," says Fisher, an organizational psychologist who is particularly interested in issues of work-life balance.

Just over half agreed or strongly agreed that they have competing demands being made on them at work, and 47 percent agreed that time pressures are a source of job stress.

Only 19 percent of older workers indicated that they have poor job security. "Given what we know about the extent of age discrimination at work and the current economic climate regarding unemployment, this is a surprisingly low number," Fisher says.

Just 15 percent reported that their work often or almost all the time interfered with their personal lives and a scant two percent said their personal lives interfered with their work.

"Many older workers are empty-nesters," Fisher says. "They don't have the same work-personal conflicts that younger and middle-aged workers deal with, juggling responsibilities to children along with their jobs and their personal needs."

Results from the study indicate workers who experience less job stress are more satisfied with their life and are overall in better physical health compared with those who report higher levels of job stressors.

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