Health-related ability to work

Poor physical and mental health are among the strongest predictors of early retirement. The impact of health on the ability to work is best considered in terms of the effects of a person's health on their ability to perform their current job, i.e., in light of the demands, rewards, and accommodations of the role.

Health-related ability to work can be improved by supporting employee health and adjusting the resources a person has to perform their role. Importantly, older employees' physical and mental health is significantly shaped by experiences across their life course. Actions that protect and support the health of workers of all ages will help support our ageing workforce.

We assessed health-related ability to work among older employees using a short version of the Work Ability Index (WAI). This measure includes questions about employees' current ability to work compared with their lifetime best, ability to perform physical demands of the job, ability to perform the mental demands of the job, estimated impairment in the role due to illness or injury, mental resources, sick leave in the past year, and estimated ability to work two years from now.

Click a category for a summary of WAI scores for older employees overall and a breakdown by demographic group.

Note. Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals for estimates; higher WAI scores (range 6-42) indicate greater health-related ability to work in the current role; scores 30+ considered to represent a risk of long-term absence from work due to injury or illness less than or equal to that of the general population; occupations are reported against the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupation categories: Labourer (e.g., cleaner, food packer, farm worker); Machinery operator/driver (e.g., machine operator, store person); Technician/trades worker (e.g., engineer, carpenter, hairdresser); Sales worker (e.g., insurance agent, sales assistant, cashier); Clerical/administrative worker (e.g., administrator, personal assistant); Community or personal service worker (e.g., teacher’s aide, armed forces, hospitality worker, carer); Professional (e.g., accountant, doctor, nurse, teacher); Manager (e.g., general manager, farm manager), or; Other (not specified).