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: http://oem.bmj.com/content/early/2016/09/21/oemed-2016-103804.full

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. http://doi.org/10.1136/oemed-2016-103804


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

An international study carried out within the IDEAR network has provided new evidence about the beneficial role of healthy lifestyles on aging. Researchers followed 74 000 people aged 50 and older from Finland, Sweden, England and France over several years. Between the ages of 50 and 75, people who did not smoke, who were physically active and who had a healthy weight lived 6–8 years longer in good health and without chronic diseases compared to those who had two or more unhealthy lifestyle behaviours. Out of these individual risk factors, physical inactivity was associated with the greatest reduction in healthy years and obesity with greatest reduction in years free from chronic disease.

The lead author Dr. Sari Stenholm from the University of Turku, Finland, comments that examining healthy years is important because the quality of the years is more important than the number of years lived:

Many chronic diseases develop with advancing age, but with a healthy lifestyle one can markedly increase the number of healthy years, says Stenholm.


Further information:

Dr. Sari Stenholm, University of Turku, Finland
Email: sari.stenholm@utu.fi


The article has been published in the International Journal of Epidemiology:

Stenholm S, Head J, Kivimäki M, Kawachi I, Aalto V, Zins M, Goldberg M, Zaninotto P, Magnuson Hanson L, Westerlund H, Vahtera J. Smoking, physical inactivity and obesity as predictors of healthy and disease-free life expectancy between ages 50 and 75: a multicohort study. Int J Epidemiology 2016. http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/08/02/ije.dyw126.abstract

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