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The ageing of the labour force and falling employment rates have forced policy makers in industrialized countries to find means of increasing the well-being of older workers and of lengthening their work careers.To longitudinally study the relationship between activity and functional capacity and the well-being of ageing workers.Follow-up study to that carried out by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in 1981–97 (n=3817). Activity level was measured using various free-time activities, and functional capacity was measured through daily-life activities. The measure of well-being included items with both positive and negative affects. The associations between activity, functional capacity and well-being were analysed by general linear models with repeated measures.Activity level and functional capacity had a strong positive effect (the effects of one unit increase were 0.32 and 0.30, respectively) on well-being. They were also interdependent. The impact of activity level in maintaining well-being became 31% greater during the follow-up, whereas the effect of functional capacity diminished by 17%.The results of the study indicate that both involvement in activities and functional capacity have an important, partly compensatory role in maintaining the well-being of ageing workers.