Objective: To investigate variations in quality of life at older ages, we take a life course perspective to analyse long-term effects of physical working conditions upon quality of life after retirement. In doing so, we study to what extent these associations are explained by individuals' health at older ages.
Method: We use administrative data and self-administered questionnaire responses from the French GAZEL cohort. Quality of life was assessed with CASP-19 in 2009 and related to three types of physical working conditions during previous working life: (1) ergonomic strain, (2) physical danger and (3) exposures to chemicals. Health was assessed in 2007 with the SF-36 Health Survey. Multiple regressions were calculated in retired men only, controlling for important confounders including social position.
Results: In contrast to men, few women were exposed to strenuous and dangerous working conditions in this cohort and were not included in subsequent analyses. Negative effects on retired men's quality of life were found for the physical occupational exposures of ergonomic strain and physical danger, but not for chemical exposures. Effects were attenuated after the introduction of physical and mental health to the models, indicating an indirect effect of physical working conditions upon quality of life via health.
Conclusion: Adverse physical working conditions have long-term consequences for health and quality of life at older ages. Improvements to physical working conditions may improve individuals' quality of life over the long term.