There is a common belief that demanding jobs can make workers age faster, but there is little empirical evidence linking occupational characteristics to accelerated biological aging. We examine how occupational categorizations and self-reported working conditions are associated with expanded biological age, which incorporates 22 biomarkers and captures physiologic dysregulation throughout several bodily systems.
Data are from 1,133 participants in the Health and Retirement Study who were aged 51–60 and working for pay in the 2010 or 2012 wave and who participated in the 2016 Venous Blood Study. We estimate associations between occupational category (professional/managerial, sales/clerical, service, and manual) and self-reported working conditions (psychosocial demands, job control, heavy lifting, and working 55 or more hours per week) and expanded biological age.
Compared to same-age individuals working in professional or managerial positions, those working in service jobs appear 1.65 years older biologically even after adjusting for social and economic characteristics, self-reported working conditions, health insurance, and lifestyle-related risk factors. Low job control is associated with 1.40 years, heavy lifting with 2.08 years, and long working hours with 1.87 years of accelerated biological aging.
Adverse occupational characteristics held at midlife, particularly service work, low job control, heavy lifting, and long work hours, are associated with accelerated biological aging. These findings suggest that work may be important for the overall aging process beyond its associations with specific diseases or risk factors.
The full study can be viewed at The Journals of Gerontology Series B.
Andrasfay, Kim, J. K., Ailshire, J. A., & Crimmins, E. (2023). Aging on the job? The association between occupational characteristics and accelerated biological aging. The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.
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