Chronic musculoskeletal pain is causing significant repercussions in the workforce, leading older adults to retire earlier than anticipated. A recent study from the University of Portsmouth in the UK sheds light on the concerning link between musculoskeletal pain and premature retirement.

Study Findings and Insights

The study, published in PLOS ONE, analyzed data from over 1,000 individuals aged 50 and above living in England who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, revealing a strong association between musculoskeletal pain and early retirement. Even after considering job satisfaction, working conditions, and sex, individuals with chronic pain were more likely to exit the workforce sooner.

Understanding the Role of Pain in Retirement Decisions

Previous research has shown the adverse impact of chronic pain on work capacity, absenteeism, and income levels. However, this study, conducted by Dr Nils Niederstrasser and colleagues, specifically focuses on how chronic musculoskeletal pain influences retirement decisions among older populations. Pain emerges as a critical factor determining the timing of retirement, surpassing other variables such as job satisfaction.

Further Reading: MSK Care Report Reveals Toll of Chronic and Acute Pain

Implications for Workforce Sustainability

The findings underscore the urgent need to address chronic pain in older adults to support workforce sustainability. Notably, factors like work dissatisfaction and self-perceived social status also play a role in determining retirement age. Proactive pain management strategies are essential to mitigate the negative impact of pain on work outcomes.

Recommendations for Future Research and Action

The study authors emphasize the importance of further research to understand the mechanisms driving early retirement decisions in individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain. By identifying these factors, interventions can be developed to support older adults in remaining in the workforce with good health.

The Call to Address Chronic Pain Early

Dr Niederstrasser stresses the critical need to address chronic pain proactively to prevent premature retirement and its associated financial challenges. By prioritizing pain management strategies, individuals can maintain their workforce participation and avoid the risks of inadequate financial preparation in later years.

Featured image: Frequent musculoskeletal pain is linked with an increased risk of exiting work and retiring earlier. Photo: Dreamstime