UK life expectancy at birth has reached its highest level for both men and women; newborn baby boys could expect to live 77.4 years, and newborn baby girls 81.6 years if mortality rates remain the same as they were in 2006–08 [1]. The implications of the ageing population for society are wide-ranging and complex. Population ageing could be considered a hazard, but it could also present an opportunity. It is therefore apt that this issue includes a review series on Ageing and Work. In his article, Ross [2] provides an overview on the current thinking about the concept of what it means to be an ‘older worker’, and the idea that older workers can compensate for a reduced ability to meet job demands by using experience and resources in a more economic way.

McDermott and colleagues [3] review the current approaches aimed at maintaining the health and work ability of older workers. Unsurprisingly they highlight the lack of interventions evaluating the workplace occupational health issues faced by older workers. They suggest that future interventions need to adopt a life course perspective, which would allow for early identification of risk factors for illness and provide enhanced opportunity for prevention.

In their review, Crawford et al. [4] look at research on the health, safety and health promotion needs of older workers. They conclude that despite the evidence of physical and psychological changes occurring in workers over 50, there is still limited interventional research available to aid in the health and safety management of this occupational group.

The last two review articles focus on ageing and work in relation to gender. Granville and colleagues consider the complex inter-relationships between work and health among older men, the link between work, well-being and male identity, and the changing nature and meaning of career and retirement [5]. Finally, Payne and colleagues review the available literature on older women's health in the workplace, focusing on work-specific and more general risks for older women. They conclude that while, overall, many older women report that paid work contributes to their well-being, paid work also carries risks for their health. In common with the other reviews, further research is required, particularly on the physical health risks experienced by older women in the workplace; the ways in which the effects of paid work may change across the life course, and the links between waged work and domestic responsibilities for older women [6].

Also in this issue, Lightfoot et al. looked at the cancer incidence and mortality for a cohort of male nickel workers at a nickel and copper company. In their cohort of 10 253 employees, there were 1127 (11%) incident cancers and 1984 deaths (19%). Significantly increased lung cancer mortality and incidence were observed for the cohort and underground workers with increased time since first hire, for those hired during early periods of operation, and for those with longer durations of employment. The authors concluded that further study is required as occupational aetiology could not be ascertained without observed significant trends [7].

Finally, job strain is the subject of Maizura's study on Malaysian office workers. A cross-sectional study of 470 workers revealed that 21% of respondents were in the high job strain group. Three factors were found to be associated with high job strain: male workers, working more than 48 h/week and job insecurity. It was concluded that work improvement measures included reducing long working hours and job insecurity, and giving workers the opportunity to learn, use creativity and develop abilities [8].

References

1.
Office for National Statistics, 2009
Life expectancy - Life expectancy continues to rise
 
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/ (2 April 2010, date last accessed)
2.
Ross
D
Ageing and work: an overview
Occup Med (Lond)
 , 
2010
, vol. 
60
 (pg. 
169
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171
)
3.
McDermott
HJ
Kazi
A
Munir
F
Haslam
C
Developing occupational health services for active age management
Occup Med (Lond)
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2010
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60
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193
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4.
Crawford
JO
Graveling
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Cowie
HA
Dixon
K
The health safety and health promotion needs of older workers
Occup Med (Lond)
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2010
, vol. 
60
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184
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192
)
5.
Granville
G
Evandrou
M
Older men, work and health
Occup Med (Lond)
 , 
2010
, vol. 
60
 (pg. 
178
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183
)
6.
Payne
S
Doyal
L
Older women, work and health
Occup Med (Lond)
 , 
2010
, vol. 
60
 (pg. 
172
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177
)
7.
Lightfoot
N
Berriault
C
Semenciw
R
Mortality and cancer incidence in a nickel cohort
Occup Med (Lond)
 , 
2010
, vol. 
60
 (pg. 
211
-
218
)
8.
Mazuria
H
Retneswari
M
Moe
H
Hoe
VCW
Bulgiba
A
Job strain among Malaysian office workers of a multinational company
Occup Med (Lond)
 , 
2010
, vol. 
60
 (pg. 
219
-
224
)