Older Workers and Mental Health: 5 Key Considerations

 It’s no secret that we’re living in an ageing population.

Thanks to advances in medical care and improvements in living conditions, people in the UK are living for much longer. In fact, it’s predicted that within the next 20 years, around a quarter of the UK’s population will be aged 65 or over.

Along with living longer, people are also working for longer too. It’s predicted that within the next decade, over a third of the UK’s total workforce will be over 50 years old. This is not just down to increased life expectancy, but for some it’s a financial necessity.


The steady rise in the average age of the workforce brings problems that industries are only just beginning to face up to – one of these is the challenge of mental health with older workers.

Broadly speaking, people over the age of 50 are more likely to encounter a mental health issue than their younger counterparts, and organisations are going to have to get to grips with this in order to maintain a productive workforce both now and in the future.

Whilst many successful organisations are putting the health and wellbeing of employees into sharp focus, there are some unique considerations faced by employers when it comes to the mental health of their older workers.

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1. 1 in 5 Older Workers Consider Giving Up Work Due to Health Conditions

Research by the Centre for Better Aging has found that older workers are more likely to give up work if they have to deal with an ongoing health problem – and this includes issues with mental health.

2. Older Workers can be More Fearful of Stigma or Reprisals

The decision to retire because of ongoing physical or mental health concerns is usually down to the perceived stigma attached to them. Also, older workers are more likely to be fearful of reprisals or losing their job due to being seen as unfit or ‘too old’ to work.

This fear of losing a job over a mental health condition also stems from the perceived lack of support given by employers. After all, if an employer doesn't highlight the support available to their older workers, it can be just as ineffective as having no support at all.

3. Disclosure of a Mental Condition can Lead to Added Mental Stress 

Disclosing a mental health problem to an employer can be extremely stressful – more so for an older worker who may be fearful of their working future. Employers need to take the lead with normalising conversations around mental health at work and create a mentally-aware and supportive workplace to combat this.

4. Older Workers are More Likely to Struggle On – Until They No Longer Can 

The Centre for Better Aging also reported that 45% of workers they surveyed over the age of 55 had taken no days off work despite an ongoing health condition in the last six months, compared to 32% of workers aged 25-44.

Whilst absence from work can obviously harm an organisation's productivity, presenteeism through fear of taking a sick day can be just as damaging - if not more so.

5. Early Access to Support can Help Prevent Further Decline

The early retirement of older workers has significant implications for employers struggling to recruit and retain a skilled workforce. By supporting a positive approach to mental health and wellbeing through a dedicated employee assistance programme, you can help older workers who wish to work longer do exactly that.


Having a mentally and physically healthy workforce plays a huge part in the success of a business; but if you're not sure where to start, download your own free health and wellbeing in the workplace pack- just click the link below to get yours!

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