Educational Inequalities in Exit from Paid Employment among Dutch Workers: The Influence of Health, Lifestyle and Work

Suzan Robroek, A Rongen, CH Arts, FWH Otten, Lex Burdorf, Merel Schuring

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Background Individuals with lower socioeconomic status are at increased risk of involuntary exit from paid employment. To give sound advice for primary prevention in the workforce, insight is needed into the role of mediating factors between socioeconomic status and labour force participation. Therefore, it is aimed to investigate the influence of health status, lifestyle-related factors and work characteristics on educational differences in exit from paid employment. Methods 14,708 Dutch employees participated in a ten-year follow-up study during 1999-2008. At baseline, education, self-perceived health, lifestyle (smoking, alcohol, sports, BMI) and psychosocial (demands, control, rewards) and physical work characteristics were measured by questionnaire. Employment status was ascertained monthly based on tax records. The relation between education, health, lifestyle, work-characteristics and exit from paid employment through disability benefits, unemployment, early retirement and economic inactivity was investigated by competing risks regression analyses. The mediating effects of these factors on educational differences in exit from paid employment were tested using a step-wise approach. Results Lower educated workers were more likely to exit paid employment through disability benefits (SHR: 1.84), unemployment (SHR: 1.74), and economic inactivity (SHR: 1.53) but not due to early retirement (SHR: 0.92). Poor or moderate health, an unhealthy lifestyle, and unfavourable work characteristics were associated with disability benefits and unemployment, and an unhealthy lifestyle with economic inactivity. Educational differences in disability benefits were explained for 40% by health, 31% by lifestyle, and 12% by work characteristics. For economic inactivity and unemployment, up to 14% and 21% of the educational differences could be explained, particularly by lifestyle-related factors. Conclusions There are educational differences in exit from paid employment, which are partly mediated by health, lifestyle and work characteristics, particularly for disability benefits. Health promotion and improving working conditions seem important measures to maintain a productive workforce, particularly among workers with a low education.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalPLoS One (print)
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Research programs

  • EMC NIHES-02-65-02

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