People who frequently have musculoskeletal pain are more likely to retire earlier

People who frequently experience muscle, nerve or pain in their bones are more likely to retire earlier, according to a study of just over 1000 over-50s living in England. International researchers used data from an ageing study to compare how frequently the participants complained of musculoskeletal pain with how early they stopped working. The researchers say those with more pain tended to retire earlier and were more likely to stop work sooner, whether they described themselves as retired or not. They say this link existed even after controlling for other influences on retirement such as job satisfaction and mental health.

Funder: The UK Data Archive made available the
data. A team of researchers based at University
College London, NatCen Social Research, the
Institute for Fiscal Studies and the University of
Manchester developed the English Longitudinal
Study of Ageing.NatCen Social Research collected
the data. The National Institute of Aging
(R01AG017644) and a consortium of UK
government departments coordinated by the
Economic and Social Research Council provide
funding for ELSA. ELSA is funded by the National
Institute on Aging (R01AG017644), and by UK
Government Departments coordinated by the
National Institute for Health and Care Research
(NIHR). The funders had no role in the study
design; in the collection, analysis, and
interpretation of data; in writing of the report; or in
the decision to submit the paper for publication.
The developers and funders of ELSA and the
Archive do not bear any responsibility for the
analyses or interpretations presented here.

Media release

From: PLOS

Earlier retirement for people with chronic musculoskeletal pain

Association between musculoskeletal pain and earlier work exit persisted even after accounting for working conditions, job satisfaction and sex

Frequent musculoskeletal pain is linked with an increased risk of exiting work and retiring earlier, according to a new study published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Nils Niederstrasser of the University of Portsmouth, UK, and colleagues.

Previous studies have shown higher rates of absenteeism, reduced working capacity and reduced income for people with chronic musculoskeletal pain. The prevalence of people living with musculoskeletal pain increases with age, but few studies have specifically focused on the effects of chronic pain on the employment status of older populations.

In the new study, Niederstrasser and colleagues used data on 1,156 individuals aged 50+ living in England and taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Over the course of the 14-year data collection period, 1,073 of the individuals retired.

The researchers found that people with more musculoskeletal pain complaints tended to retire earlier compared to pain-free participants (HR = 1.30, CI = 1.12–1.49). Participants suffering from musculoskeletal pain were also 1.25 times more likely to cease work sooner (CI = 1.10–1.43), whether or not they described themselves as retired. Other factors associated with earlier retirement age included higher work dissatisfaction and higher self-perceived social status. Frequent musculoskeletal pain remained a significant predictor of earlier retirement and risk of work cessation at earlier ages even when controlling for the influence of job satisfaction, depressive symptoms, self-perceived social status, sex, and working conditions.

The authors conclude that pain experiences can lead to poor work outcomes and point out that further research should establish the mechanisms and decision making involved in leaving the workforce for people with frequent musculoskeletal pain.

The authors add: β€œIt is remarkable that pain predicts earlier retirement and work cessation to a similar extent or even more strongly than other variables, such as job satisfaction or specific job demands. It shows just how much impact pain can have on all aspects of people’s lives.”


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