The average age of the working population in the UK is increasing, and people are now more likely to work to an older age. Increasing the number of years spent at work, extending working lives, is something that is evident across many sectors. However, evidence about the implications of working into older age is relatively scarce, and there are gaps in knowledge and understanding regarding the potential health and safety impacts.
The purpose of this study was to gather evidence about the health effects of working into older age, by focusing on the transport and logistics sector. Interviews were carried out with professional drivers of heavy goods vehicles (HGV) aged over fifty, and those who manage or supervise them.
A recurrent finding was that the work of a professional HGV driver in the UK is likely to involve long, unsociable hours, high physical and mental demands, and often long periods of sedentary work. The adverse health consequences of these factors were reported to be musculoskeletal disorders, stress, tiredness and fatigue, and issues associated with being overweight. However, having an appropriate amount of physical work was believed to be beneficial in helping drivers to remain fit and strong, and to keep their weight down, as they continued to work into older age.
This study provides valuable insights into the health impact of the changing world of work, as individuals work into older age. Reports from study participants highlight the importance of appropriate management of working hours and physical tasks for older workers. They also indicate that any employer interventions to support older workers may need to look beyond these individual factors and consider how the wider social and cultural aspects of work might also be adapted.