Life expectancy is the highest it has ever been. Men aged 60 in 2013 can expect to live until they are 82 years old. But a longer life also means ‘the proportion of life spent in good health is falling’ according to the Office for National Statistics. Men can expect to live just over three quarters of their life in good health. Healthy life expectancy for boys born between 2013-2015 is 63.1 years or approximately 79.7% of their lifetime.
This means facing nearly 20 years of life in poor or fair health.
“Improvements to healthcare and living healthier lives mean that as a nation we are living longer. However while we are living longer we are spending a smaller proportion of our overall lives in good health which puts a greater challenge on health services.” Sarah Caul, Senior Health Researcher, ONS
Could working longer make us healthier?
It’s estimated that by 2020, one third of the workforce will be over 50, the official retirement age is set to go up to 67 by 2028, and talk of it going up to 70 for millennials, but could there be a positive benefit to working longer? According to the NHS, the over 65s are the most sedentary age group, spending 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down. Good work contributes to self esteem and cognitive health and gives a sense of purpose and routine.
But 42% of people aged 50-64 who are working have 1 or more health condition and almost half (46%) of people aged 55–64 who are no longer working retired due to at least one chronic medical condition
The most prevalent health conditions affecting people aged 50–64 are musculoskeletal conditions (21%)
Musculoskeletal conditions are disorders of the bones, joints, muscles and spine. They can cause pain, stiffness or a loss of mobility and dexterity that can make it difficult to carry out everyday activities.
According to the Department for Health
‘Musculoskeletal conditions are the leading causes of pain and disability in England, particularly osteoarthritis and back pain. These conditions accounted for the second largest annual NHS clinical commissioning group budget spend of £4.7 billion in 2013/14 and result in substantial productivity losses.
Musculoskeletal conditions are a leading cause of sickness absence. People with musculoskeletal conditions are less likely to be employed than others, and tend to have lower household income and retire earlier. In 2013, 30.6 million lost working days were attributed to musculoskeletal conditions.
Musculoskeletal health has been called a public health priority. Tackling readily modifiable risk factors, such as obesity and physical inactivity, would lead to major health benefits.’
Public Health England advise that musculoskeletal conditions can be prevented through physical exercise:
“Regular physical activity and exercise at every stage of life can reduce the risk of many musculoskeletal conditions, including arthritis, back pain, neck pain, falls and fractures.. A healthy balanced diet is also important for good bone health, to prevent osteoporosis and falls in later life.”
NHS recommended guidelines
According to the Department for Health, 1 in 3 people ages 50-70 are overweight. The NHS recommends that in addition to 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, over 65s should also do ‘strength training two or more days a week to work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).’
The NHS lists the following as suitable strength exercises:
- Carrying or moving heavy loads, such as groceries
- Activities that involve stepping and jumping, such as dancing
- Heavy gardening, such as digging or shovelling
- Exercises that use your body weight for resistance, such as push-ups or sit-ups
- Lifting weights