Age Changes in Subjective Work Ability

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Per Erik Solem


This article explores the influence of psychosocial work environment on age-related subjective changes in work ability and discusses differences between work ability and job performance. The results show age and physical health to be strong predictors of subjective decline in work ability. The age effect is independent of age-associated declining health. It is not clear what it is about age that produces the subjective decline in work ability. While primary age changes may produce decline, stereotypes and self-stereotypes about ageing may also be important. Among psychosocial factors, options for learning and problems at work are robust predictors of subjective changes in work ability. One practical consequence is to ensure learning opportunities for workers, even for workers approaching retirement age. By giving learning opportunities to senior workers, subjective work ability may be maintained, and competence acquired through learning may in a direct way support stability or improvements in job performance.


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