Objective: To examine the association between long-term health conditions and being out of the labour force among older Australians.
Design, setting and participants: Retrospective analysis of cross-sectional data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2003 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers for people aged 45-64 years.
Main outcome measures: Rates of premature retirement associated with ill health; odds ratios of being out of the labour force associated with each long-term health condition and number of conditions; weighted population estimates; estimates of gross domestic product lost as a result.
Results: 9198 people surveyed were aged 45-64 years, 3010 of whom were not in the labour force. Of these, 1373 (45.6%) had retired because of a chronic health condition, most commonly a back problem (10.4%), or arthritis and related disorders (8.6%). When adjusted for age and sex, all conditions studied except diseases of the ear and mastoid process, other endocrine/nutritional and metabolic disorders, noise-induced deafness or hearing loss, and high cholesterol were significantly associated with being out of the labour force. Extrapolating from these results, an estimated 663 235 older Australians were not working because of ill health, reducing Australia's gross domestic product by around $14.7 billion per annum.
Conclusion: Prevention of long-term health conditions may help older Australians remain in the labour force longer, thereby increasing revenue to fund health care for the ageing population.