Press release, 15 March 2011

Eurofound publishes its new Foundation Focus ‘Work and health: a difficult relationship?’:

Working longer requires better working

The improvement of working conditions throughout a worker’s career is a necessary condition to enable workers to continue to work for as long as possible. But what constitutes good working conditions, and what is required to allow older workers to remain in work? The new Foundation Focus explores the complex relationship between work and health, and asks European social policymakers what they will do to tackle the challenges of work and health, and an ageing society.  

The new Foundation Focus provides insights and new research data and findings on the increasing levels of stress and work intensity. It finds that work-related stress is on the increase as a result of complex organisational decision-making, and it explores the effects of high work demands on health, especially in relation to cardiovascular diseases and mental health problems. It argues that stress is not caused by work alone, but by conflicting demands on people, both in their working and non-working lives. 

For Europeans, work intensity has increased over the past 20 years – more workers work at high speed, work to tight deadlines, or have their pace of work driven by more demands. In the EU27, nearly 60% of workers say that that they have to work at very high speed for at least a quarter of their working time. By reducing the physical strain of work as well as the stress caused by the intensity of work, workers are more likely to stay in their jobs longer. 

The Foundation Focus also offers a snapshot of workers’ attitudes towards ageing and training in the workplace, taken from the latest edition of the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS 2010). They show that the percentage of workers in the EU27 that think they will be able to do their current job at the age of 60 has risen marginally from 57% in 2000 to 59% in 2010. There are, however, big differences between countries: over 70% of workers in the Netherlands and Germany feel able to do their job at 60, compared to only 26% of workers in Slovenia. This percentage of workers thinking they will be able to do their job at age 60 closely corresponds to the actual percentage of older workers in the respective workforce. Out of the ten Member States with the lowest percentage of  workers expecting to be able to do their job at age 60, seven Member States are also in the bottom ten in terms of the proportion of workers aged 50 and older in the workforce.

Several good practice examples of how companies and organisation deal with work and health, and an ageing work force, form part of the publication. Among them are MOL, the Hungarian oil and gas group, which has integrated employee health as part of the company’s management philosophy, the NHS and their programme to deal with mental health issues of their workforce and the Belgian Federation for Hospital Institutions and their innovative efforts to retain older workers in the health care sector. 

Download Foundation Focus


For further information, contact Måns Mårtensson, media manager, on email or telephone: +353-1-204 3124, and mobile: +353-876-593 507.


The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) is a tripartite EU body, whose role is to provide key actors in social policymaking with findings, knowledge and advice drawn from comparative research. Eurofound was established by Council Regulation EEC No 1365/75 of 26 May 1975 and is located in Dublin, Ireland.

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