Measures to prevent chronic health conditions among Australia's older workers may be essential to increasing future labour force participation, according to a study in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.
Dr Deborah Schofield and her co-authors from the Northern Rivers University Department of Rural Health looked at which industries and occupational groups have higher numbers of older workers with chronic work-limiting health conditions.
"Older workers with chronic conditions are more likely to be employed in certain industries such as retail trade, and health and community services," Dr Schofield says.
"Workers in the retail trade industry were found to be more likely to suffer from musculoskeletal conditions, while those in health and community services had higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
"Managers and administrators were found to be less likely to suffer from cancers, possibly because they are less exposed to risk factors or because they can more easily afford to retire when their health deteriorates.
"Given Australia's ageing population, emerging workforce shortages, and with chronic disease affecting the majority of the workforce, measures to prevent illness may be an important strategy for increasing future labour force participation.
"If the chronic conditions in growth industries [like retail trade or health care] are work-related, then rates of disease may increase in the future as these industries continue to grow.
"However, if they are unrelated to work, it may mean that older workers with these conditions can more readily gain employment in these industries.
"It is possible that people with serious health conditions self-select themselves out of the industries where their health would be an obstacle to their work, resulting in lower rates for these industries. This would seem to be the case for occupations such as tradespersons and labourers."
The Medical Journal of Australia
is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.