Physically demanding & dangerous work associated with fewer years of life in good health

A new study carried out within the IDEAR consortium has demonstrated differences in healthy life expectancy in relation to a range of physical working conditions. Researchers followed 13393 men from the French GAZEL occupational cohort over several years. They examined whether strenuous and dangerous working conditions as well as night shift work were associated with differences in the number of years participants could expect to live in good health between the ages of 50 to 75.

As displayed in the graphs, more physically demanding and dangerous work was associated with fewer years of life spent in good self-rated health and without chronic conditions. There was a graded relationship, in which people with higher levels of exposure lost more healthy years. Strenuous and hazardous work may contribute to lost years of good health in later life, which has implications for individuals’ quality of life as well as healthcare use and labour market participation.

Interestingly, people in late mid-life who were still working shift patterns that included nights had more years in good self-rated health and without chronic conditions than those who were working few or no night shifts. This is probably because of “health selection” in which GAZEL participants who developed health problems had moved out of shift work into daytime roles, leaving healthier people in those jobs that require night-time working.

Note that these results are from an observational study. Although social position was adjusted for, it cannot be excluded that other factors, such as work climate or psychosocial strain, might be causing these associations to some degree.

The full paper is available for all to read, free of charge at:

Full citation: Platts, L. G., Head, J., Stenholm, S., Chungkham, H. S., Goldberg, M., & Zins, M. (2016). Physical occupational exposures and health expectancies in a French occupational cohort. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, oemed-2016-103804.


Proportion of life between ages 50 and 75 in good health (upper pane) and without chronic disease (lower pane)

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