Dr. Mark Cropley is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Surrey, U.K. He conducts research in the area of occupational health and he is particularly interested in how people unwind and recover from the effects of work during their leisure time. In 2008, he co-organised the first international workshop on ”˜Recovery from Work'. The event attracted academics from across Europe and the USA and led to the formulation of a research network on recovery
Professor Cropley has published over 100 journal articles, book chapters and conference abstracts. He is on the Scientific Committee of the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology, and he is jointly editing a special issue for the journal Stress and Health on ”˜recovery from work'. Current research projects focus on the cognitive aspects of unwinding from work, strategies to reduce work-related rumination and fatigue; and how the recovery process may change with age.
Over 65 and working: the impact of working beyond retirement age on health and wellbeing
The ageing of the workforce will be the most significant development in the labour market over the next 15 years and it has been estimated that approximately one third of the European labour force will be aged 50 or over by the year 2020. An increasingly ageing population means it is fiscally unlikely that the state could continue to fund pensions at the current level, and it is likely that more people will have to continue working past the traditional retirement age. Retirement age differs across European countries, and the subject of retirement is under much scrutiny. Nonetheless, it is evident that the official retirement age will increase in most European countries. For instance, the default retirement age of 65 years has now been phased out by the Government in the UK, and most individuals are legally entitled to work as long as they wish. The change in retirement age is predicated by a number of factors, but is partly due to the fact that people are now living longer and healthier.
There is evidence to suggest that working is beneficial not only financially but also for health and wellbeing: simply put, people in work appear healthier and happier than people not working. Conversely, there is also evidence that older workers have an increased likelihood of reporting fatigue from work and may need more rest and recovery (Devereux & Rydstedt, 2009). Older workers are more likely to have a significantly higher need for recovery from work compared to younger workers after performing similar psychologically and physically demanding work (Devereux & Rydstedt, 2009). Furthermore, as demands increase in older adults so does the risk of all-cause mortality (Karlamangla et al., 2006).
As the population age increases and the need to work longer into later life takes effect, it will become more important to understand the needs and physical and mental abilities of workers performing different kinds of work. Based on relatively old studies on weekly productivity curves (Davis, & Josselyn, 1953; Ray, et al., 1961) the general assumption is that weekends are necessary for rest, so that people can start again refreshed on Monday. Over time most industrialised countries adopted a seven-day model consisting of a five-day working week, with a two-day weekend. However, what we do not know at present is whether this model is optimal for older workers. It may be that workers past traditional retirement age need three recovery days, or that work is better for health when it is segmented into a reduced working week. There is a general lack of research on the effects of work demands and recovery in the older worker.
This address will discuss the patterns of work prior to and beyond traditional retirement age, the importance of recovery from work demands in preventing fatigue, and how working impacts on the health and wellbeing of older people. Thus, this address considers some of the challenges social scientists face over the next decade in determining the optimal work/recovery patterns for the ageing worker.