Scand J Work Environ Health 1997;23 suppl 1:27-35    pdf

Aging and changes in health

by Seitsamo J, Klockars M

Objectives The study explored changes in the health of aging workers from 1981 to 1992.

Methods Municipal workers [age 55 to 69 (mean 61.6) years in 1992] who filled out questionnaires in both 1981 and 1992 (N = 4534) were studied. The changes in disease prevalence and perceived health were tested with Pearson's chi-square independence test. Improvement and decline in perceived health were analyzed by logistic regression models.

Results In 1992, significantly more diseases were reported than in 1981: the musculoskeletal disease rate rose from 38% in 1981 to 53% in 1992 for the women and from 35% to 49% for the men and the cardiovascular disease rate rose from 15% in 1981 to 28% in 1992 for the women and from 19% to 37% for the men. The age differences diminished during the follow-up. Self-assessed health improved in all the age groups among both those still working in 1992 and those retired. The association between illnesses and perceived health changed during the follow-up. 11% of those with no diseases experiencing their health as good in 1981 and over 40% in 1992. The most important factors explaining the improvement appeared to be a low number of physical illnesses and the absence of cardiovascular and musculoskeletal disease. Nonphysical work, frequent physical exercise, and satisfaction with life situation were also significant contributors to good perceived health.

Conclusion The improvement in perceived health during the follow-up may mean that older people have lower criteria for good perceived health than younger people do. The associations between self-assessed health and the presence of disease need further study.

The following articles refer to this text: 2009;35(1):37-47; 2011;37(6):473-480