|IN BRIEF: A study has revealed that older workers generally report lower levels of work-related stress than their younger counterparts. They also seem to enjoy life more than those faced with the competing demands of work and family life.|
Older workers generally report lower levels of work-related stress and appear to enjoy life more than younger individuals who struggle with the demands of raising a family and job security.
The University of Michigan study is based on 2006 data from 1544 participants in their Health and Retirement Study, reported Psych Central in November, 2007. The findings are salient because by the year 2010 in the US, middle-aged and older workers are expected to outnumber their younger colleagues, making the physical and emotional wellbeing of older workers a growing concern for US employers.
For the analysis, researcher Gwenith Fisher and colleagues examined the prevalence of different kinds of job stressors reported by participants between the ages of 53 and 85. They also examined how those stressors relate to workers' life satisfaction and physical health. All participants worked at least 20 hours per week.
"In general, older workers did not report high levels of work-related stressors," said Fisher, an organisational 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 per cent agreed that time pressures are a source of job stress.
Only 19 per cent of older workers indicated that they have poor job security, however. "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," said Fisher.
Just 15 per cent reported that their work often or almost all of the time interfered with their personal lives and 2 per cent said their personal lives interfered with their work.
"Many older workers are empty-nesters," Fisher was quoted as saying, "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 also indicated that workers who experience less job stress are more satisfied with their life and are generally in better physical health compared to those who report higher levels of job stressors.
For both younger and older workers alike, time pressure has been increasing over the last two decades, many studies have shown.
"Technological advances like Blackberries, along with out-sourcing and down-sizing, have all increased the amount of work and pace at work," Fisher said, "but it's particularly important to look at the effects this pressure may have on older workers, whose health may be more vulnerable than that of younger workers."
For older and younger workers facing work-related stress, Fisher recommends a few basic guidelines. She advises getting sufficient sleep so as to avoid compromising the immune system. She also suggests getting regular physical exercise to assist in reducing anxiety and to increase energy levels at work.
Engaging in active time management such as creating a to-do list in order to keep track of tasks and setting priorities as well as establishing clear boundaries are useful ways to help minimise work stress, Fisher says. "With all the technologies that blur the boundaries between work and personal life, it's important to set aside some time that isn't available for any work," she was quoted as saying.