School of Mechanical Engineering and Safety Engineering

Research Profile: Work, Age, Health and Work Participation

Research Profile

The overarching research aim of the Department of Occupational Health Science is to contribute to a differentiated understanding of the interrelation of work, on the one hand and work ability, employability and work participation, on the other. The results will be of relevance for social policy, economy, organisations, workers and not least for research.

Within the above aim the two following major topics shall be covered explicitly focusing on older workers:

A) Work, health and work participation

  • work related determinants of work participation
  • motivation to continue working

B) Work and functional limitations

  • work ability
  • disability research

Methodological research approaches of the department are:

a) Occupational Epidemiology (quantitative research on work, work ability, health and employment)

b) Life course epidemiology (complex longitudinal and life course analyses)

c) Mixed methods (combination of quantitative and qualitative research methodology)

d) Psychometrics (development of assessment instruments)

e) Field research

A) Work, health and work participation

The conceptual basis of this research area is the "lidA conceptual framework on work, age and work participation" (see Hasselhorn/Apt 2015). This framework visualises the interrelation of the determinants (“domains”) of work participation at an advanced working age. It constitutes the scientific basis of the lidA Cohort Study (lidA – leben in der Arbeit). lidA is a large longitudinal study assessing work, age, health and employment in Germany (see Cohort profile by Hasselhorn et al. 2014). It is coordinated by our department. The core task of the research work is to specifically investigate the role of work (e.g. work factors) for employment participation in the context of further domains. The theoretical construct “motivation to continue working” will be explored and operationalised in the next few years. This will close an important gap in retirement research. The department is involved in promoting an international cross-research community exchange to further develop differentiated understandings of retirement research.

B) Work and functional limitations

Over the next ten years, the demographic change will lead to a continuous and substantial reduction of the employment potential in Germany (= number of people available to the labour market). This will constitute an increasing challenge for the national economy and enterprises. Changed retirement policies will reduce early exit options and increase effective retirement age. This will contribute to an increase in the proportion of older workers with reduced functional abilities. Enterprises and organisation will have to offer working conditions to them which provide highest levels of occupational safety and assure productive working. Therefore, we will continue to research based on the concept of work ability the role of functional limitations and diseases among older workers – preferably with combined quantitative and qualitative research approaches.

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