The working population is ageing and is pushed to prolong work participation until a higher age. As the prevalence of chronic disease increases with age, the proportion of individuals with a chronic disease in the workforce increases as well. More than half of workers aged 55 years and up is having at least one chronic disease. However, policies aimed to enhance work participation focus on the general population of older workers without distinguishing those with and without chronic health problems. The aim of this presentation is to present challenges and opportunities to support workers with a chronic disease to remain active in the workforce until a higher age.
A recent review shows the importance of workplace factors for work participation of workers with chronic disease. Physical or psychosocial job demands, work organisation and support, and workplace beliefs and attitudes have been shown to be associated with work functioning. Previous studies have shown that there are many similarities between workers with different chronic diseases related to the role of workplace factors on work participation. Many interventions have been developed and evaluated focused on specific chronic disease, or on work disability in general. Evidence from randomised trials and other research designs has shown general support for job modification, coordination of return to work, and organisational support from supervisors or higher management. Work adjustments, formal or informal can be helpful for workers with chronic disease to optimise their work environment and functioning at work and reduce sick leave.
Awareness on workers with chronic disease, in particular older workers with chronic disease is increasing. Recent findings show the importance of focussing on the group of (older) workers with chronic disease as they represent a large and vulnerable group within the working population. Given the increasing societal pressure to prolong work participation, it should not be forgotten that the group of older workers is not homogeneous, but consists of workers with chronic disease that may have special needs. A healthy work environment is a continuous concern. Job loss has major consequences of the patient, as well as for society, so prevention of job loss is important and should start at an early stage, by preventing and reducing sick leave. Scientists, practitioners, as well as policy makers should take this into account.