Objective: To determine the associations between different measures of health and labor market position across ten European countries.
Methods: We studied 11,462 participants of the Survey on Health and Ageing in Europe (SHARE) who were 50-64 years old. Logistic regression was used to calculate the associations between health and other determinants and being retired, unemployed, or a homemaker.
Results: A large variation across European countries was observed for the proportion of persons 50-65 years with paid employment, varying among men from 42% in Austria to 75% in Sweden and among women from 22% in Italy to 69% in Sweden. Among employed workers 18% reported a poor health, whereas this proportion was 37% in retirees, 39% in unemployed persons, and 35% in homemakers. A perceived poor health was strongly associated with non-participating in labor force in most European countries. A lower education, being single, physical inactivity and a high body mass index were associated with withdrawal from the labor force. Long-term illnesses such as depression, stroke, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and musculoskeletal disease were significantly more common among those persons not having paid employment.
Conclusion: In many European countries a poor health, chronic diseases, and lifestyle factors were associated with being out of the labor market. The results of this study suggest that in social policies to encourage employment among older persons the role of ill-health and its influencing factors needs to be incorporated.