Role of age and health in perceptions of returning to work: a qualitative study

Neary, J. , Katikireddi, S. V. , Brown, J. , MacDonald, E. B. and Thomson, H. (2019) Role of age and health in perceptions of returning to work: a qualitative study. BMC Public Health, 19, 496. (doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-6819-9) (PMID:31046738) (PMCID:PMC6498557)

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Background: People aged over 50 years form a growing proportion of the working age population, but are at increased risk of unemployment compared to other age groups. It is often difficult to return to work after unemployment, particularly for those with health issues. In this paper, we explored the perceptions, attitudes, and experiences of returning to work after a period of unemployment (hereafter RTW) barriers among unemployed adults aged over 50 years. Method: In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of 26 unemployed individuals aged 50–64 years who were engaged with the UK Government’s Work Programme. Data were thematically analysed. Results: Age alone was not discussed by participants as a barrier to work; rather their discussions of barriers to work focused on the ways in which age influenced other issues in their lives. For participants reporting chronic health conditions, or disabilities, there was a concern about being unfit to return to their previous employment area, and therefore having to “start again” in a new career, with associated concerns about their health status and managing their treatment burden. Some participants also reported experiencing either direct or indirect ageism (including related to their health status or need to access healthcare) when looking for work. Other issues facing older people included wider socio-political changes, such as the increased pension age, were felt to be unfair in many ways and contradicted existing expectations of social roles (such as acting as a carer for other family members). Conclusion: Over-50s experienced multiple and interacting issues, at both the individual and societal level, that created RTW barriers. There is a need for employability interventions that focus on supporting the over-50s who have fallen out of the labour market to take a holistic approach, working across healthcare, employability and the local labour market, providing treatment and skills training for both those out of work and for employers, in order to create an intervention that that helps achieve RTW and its associated health benefit.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Thomson, Dr Hilary and Katikireddi, Professor Vittal and MacDonald, Professor Ewan and Brown, Dr Judith and Neary, Dr Joanne
Authors: Neary, J., Katikireddi, S. V., Brown, J., MacDonald, E. B., and Thomson, H.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > General Practice and Primary Care
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:BMC Public Health
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN (Online):1471-2458
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMC Public Health 19:496
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
622471Supporting Older people into Employment (SOPIE): identitying factors influencing return to work in the over 50sEwan MacDonaldMedical Research Council (MRC)MR/L006367/1IHW - PUBLIC HEALTH
727651SPHSU Core Renewal: Measuring and Analysing Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health Research ProgrammeAlastair LeylandMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/13IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
727671SPHSU Core Renewal: Informing Healthy Public Policy Research ProgrammePeter CraigMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/15IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
699162Understanding the impacts of welfare policy on health: A novel data linkage studySrinivasa KatikireddiOffice of the Chief Scientist (CSO)SCAF/15/02IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU