Early Findings from the WHERL project: Work, Health, Retirement and the Lifecourse

This article is posted in: Data Analysis, Health, Inequality, Lifecourse, Mental Health, Older Workers, Research, Retirement, Work

The WHERL project (Work, Health, Retirement and the Lifecourse) is a three year interdisciplinary consortium funded by the Medical Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council under the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW) programme.  Teams from The Institute of Gerontology at King’s College London, the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, and the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London, presented early findings from the project to an audience of government officials, policy makers, academics, key influencers and others interested in the topic.  The event was hosted by project partners The Pensions Policy Institute, and very kindly supported by Prudential.

The WHERL project examines a crucial question for ageing societies: how inequalities across the life course relate to paid work in later life in the UK. This issue is of growing importance since the UK, in common with many other governments across the world, is rapidly extending the working lives of older adults through the postponement of State Pension Age (SPA) and other measures. These policy reforms affect millions of people, yet their implications for health and wellbeing are unknown. Do these policies harm, benefit or have little effect on the population? To answer this, we need to understand the lifelong drivers affecting the complex relationship between paid work in later life, health and wellbeing.

Six papers were presented, and the slides from these are all available to view and download on the event page of the website here: https://wherl.ac.uk/events/the-wellbeing-health-retirement-and-the-lifecourse-project-wherl-is-pleased-to-invite-you-to-an-event-to-disseminate-current-research-findings/

Professor Karen Glaser, who is the Principal Investigator leading the Consortium from the Institute of Gerontology gave an overview of the project, including the key research questions, the work completed so far and proposed next steps: “Introduction to the WHERL project”.

Dr Laurie Corna, Co-Investigator at the Institute of Gerontology, presented a paper entitled “Patterns of work up to and beyond State Pension Age, and their relationship to earlier lifecourse histories”.  The paper demonstrated the considerable variation in the lives of men and women in terms of family and employment histories, and how these lifecourse patterns then contribute to patterns of work in mid-life and beyond.

Dr Giorgio Di Gessa, Research Associate, presented a paper entitled “Are there health benefits to working beyond state pension age”.  Taking a lifecourse approach to this issue, he examined the crucial question of whether the apparent association between good health and paid work in later life is because healthier people stay in work, or because work is good for your health. Some policy implications of the finding are discussed.

Dr Loretta Platts, Research Associate from the Institute of Gerontology, presented a paper entitled “Do people return to work after retiring in the UK”.  This looks at the interesting question of how fixed a state “retirement” is for men and women in the UK, how likely they are to “unretire” in the years following retirement, and what might be influencing whether they do so.

Dr Rebecca Benson from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London presented a paper entitled “How does health affect working beyond state pension age”, using longitudinal evidence of biomarker data to measure allostatic load on the body, and how this influences paid work over time for men and women in mid-life and beyond

Finally, Dr Gayan Perera and Professor Rob Stewart from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience presented a paper entitled “Paid employment and common mental disorders around retirement”, in which they examined the association between common mental disorders and paid work across time.

The papers generated a great deal of discussion and interest from the audience.  For further information about the project contact Professor Karen Glaser, and to receive updates about the project, follow the WHERL blog by signing up here: https://wherl.ac.uk/about/blog/