Onrec logo The Online Recruitment Resource

5.5 million workers aged 50+ fear health concerns will curtail their working lives

More than five million workers over the age of 501 are concerned that health issues will prevent them from prolonging their working lives, Aviva’s latest Real Retirement research reveals. Half (55%) admit to fearing that work will become detrimental to their health or they might not be well enough to keep working, including 13% who say this is already an issue for them.

  • More than half (55%) of over-50s workers have concerns around work and its impact on their health as they age, with women (61%) most worried about this
  • But 13% intend never to stop work completely
  • Aviva calls for more support from employers as only 14% older workers say their workplace culture is positive towards them

More than five million workers over the age of 501 are concerned that health issues will prevent them from prolonging their working lives, Aviva’s latest Real Retirement research reveals. Half (55%) admit to fearing that work will become detrimental to their health or they might not be well enough to keep working, including 13% who say this is already an issue for them.

Fewer than one in five (17%) over-50s workers say they have access to wellbeing advice and initiatives in the workplace which could help prevent health issues from impacting their careers. 

Health concerns jar with plans to work for longer as one in ten expect never to retire

While Aviva’s research suggests the average over-50 worker expects to retire completely at 66, many intend to work into their late 60s and beyond. 

Nearly half (48%) now expect to work past the age of 65 – the former Default Retirement Age – including nearly one in four (23%) who plan to work beyond 70 and 13% who do not expect to ever retire fully. Two in five (41%) don’t know when they’ll be able to retire fully.

Many older employees already expect to retire later than they planned to at a younger age. Among those who know when they expect to retire2, three in five (62%, or 3.6 million people) say their expected retirement age is older than they thought it would be ten years ago. In 2010, the average retirement age for men and women was 65 and 62 respectively3. Aviva’s research suggests the average expected retirement age for both men and women in 2017 is 66.

Those retiring later than planned are partly doing so out of financial necessity. Two in five (43%) do not have enough in their pension savings to retire when they wanted to and 32% say the cost of living means they cannot afford to stop working.

However, a third (34%) choose to keep working as they enjoy the mental stimulation of their job and more than one in four (27%) would be lonely without the social interaction.

Lack of employer support raises doubts over older workers’ careers

Another factor which could prevent over-50s workers from working as they age is a lack of employer support. Only 14% feel their workplace culture is positive towards older workers.

More than a quarter (27%) say their employer values the youth and vitality of younger employees above their experience and knowledge, while one in five (19%) say their employer’s views on older workers limit their future work prospects. 

Flexible working and positivity towards older workers valued by over-50s

Almost one in four (22%) over-50s workers – or 2.2 million people – worry their jobs won’t suit their needs as long as they need it to. This could partly be due to a lack of appropriate workplace support for older workers.

The most important forms of workplace support for workers over the age of 50 are a positive workplace culture for older workers (valued by 47%), reduced working hours or part-time working/job sharing (33%) and career flexibility such as reduced responsibilities or a job description change (29%). However, not all over-50s workers are currently able to access these forms of support with just 11% able to negotiate career flexibility.

One in ten (10%) say new skills training is important for workers over the age of 50, suggesting workplace support is also needed to help older workers continue growing in their careers. A quarter (24%) of over-50s workers agree opportunities for career progression is an important part of working life at their age. 

Lindsey Rix, Managing Director, Savings and Retirement at Aviva said:

“There is now a clear trend of people working for longer and delaying their retirement. Although some are staying in work out of financial necessity, others want to keep working because they value the mental and social stimulation their job brings.

“One of the primary concerns people have about working beyond their 50s is the impact this could have on their health, or whether any health concerns might prevent them from working. Although it’s hard to predict what the future might bring, having access to health and wellbeing support in the workplace can help minimise the impact health problems have on people’s ability to work. Flexible working options and reduced responsibilities are also a way of ensuring those with developing health concerns can remain in the workforce. 

“Negative employer views towards older workers are a real roadblock to over-50s’ careers, and need to be stamped out as quickly as possible. Employers must recognise that over-50s bring with them a wealth of valuable knowledge, skills and experience that would be an asset to any business. Workers who feel undervalued at work on the basis of their age should therefore feel safe to speak up and voice their concerns. All older workers should have the opportunity to support both their financial and personal wellbeing through work.”


1 ONS Table A05: Labour market by age group: People by economic activity and age (seasonally adjusted) – August 2017. There are 9,934,000 workers aged 50 and above.
2 Representing 59% of over-50s workers, or 5,861,060 people.
3 ONS Pension Trends – Chapter 4: The Labour Market and Retirement, 2013 Edition