State pension age changes: Women in high-stress jobs face increased health issues – report

In the past, the state pension age stood at 60 for women and 65 for men. However, changes to the state pension age for women were announced under the Pensions Act 1995, and accelerated under the Pensions Act 2011.


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In November 2018, the state pension age for women reached 65, and now, the ages for both men and women are continuing to rise.

It is set to reach 66 for men and women by October 2020, ahead of further increases to 67 and then 68.

A new study, published in the journal Health Economics by a team of researchers from the Institute of Gerontology at King’s College London examined the health implications of increases to the state pension age (SPA) in Britain from age 60 up to age 66 for women born after March 1950.

The findings raise concerns about the harmful mental health effects for women in physically and psychosocially strenuous jobs, and the potential health costs of recent pension policy reforms.

The paper, titled “Later retirement, job strain and health: evidence from the new State Pension age in the UK”, is the first study on the health effects of recent reforms to SPA for women in Britain.

The research has found that rises in state pension age have led to a 30 percent increase in the probability of depressive symptoms among women working in physically and physchosocially demanding jobs.

These are jobs characterised by low control combined with high job demands, the report said.

Around a third of women in the UK work in these jobs, including those in housekeeping and restaurant services, personal care, sales, cleaning, and machine operation.

With mental health issues constituting a major concern for the public purse, estimated at more than four percent of GDP in the UK, the researchers have suggested that the “harmful mental health consequences of these reforms” may have been overlooked, adding that they may overshadow some of the potential benefits of later retirement for public finances.

The researchers are calling for any future policies to increase the state pension age to consider preventative strategies targeting the mental health effects of such reforms for women in high stress jobs, and to reflect on the fairness of failing to take into account working conditions as criteria for SPA eligibility.

Lead researcher Dr. Ludovico Carrino said: “The UK, as most OECD countries, has introduced reforms to raise the state pension age.

“These reforms may be necessary for improving the financial sustainability of pension systems, and some workers may benefit from longer working lives.


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“However, blanket increases in the state pension age ignore the fact that some groups of workers face increased exposure to physically or psychologically strenuous working conditions, and therefore face a higher risk of mental and physical health problems.”

Professor Mauricio Avendano added: “Our results suggest that, while workers in managerial or professional occupations do not experience worsening health, women in jobs with low control and high levels of demand do experience increased physical and mental health problems, which will contribute to health inequalities.

“Increasing mental health conditions are likely to lead to increased health-care costs, disability benefit enrolment and service use, while lowering labour market productivity.”

Referring to the current debate about prolonging working lives in OECD countries, Professor Karen Glaser said: “Addressing this challenge may require new ways of thinking about alternative interventions to support workers in high-stress occupations in order to prevent harmful mental health consequences, such as policies that promote flexible working as a way to facilitate the transition to retirement.”

The researchers employed data from the Understanding Society survey, following a sample of around 3,500 women aged 60 to 64 between 2009 and 2017.

The team compared the mental health of women who were not eligible to receive their state pension because of changes to the SPA, to the health of women of a similar age and characteristics, who were unaffected by the reform by virtue of their birthdate.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “The government decided more than 20 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality, and this has been clearly communicated.

“We need to raise the age at which all of us can draw a state pension so it is sustainable now and for future generations.”

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