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Blue-collar workers with arthritis in much worse health than all other workers

June 07, 2017

The investigators reported that lower-income workers of older age in the service and farming sectors-- two job types that are unlikely to come with pension plans--are more likely to have arthritis than not, with 58% of service workers and 67% of farm workers continuing to work despite struggling with the painful health condition. Sixteen percent of all blue collar workers are over 65 and 47% report they have arthritis. By contrast, 14% of white collar workers work beyond the age of 65, and 51% of these workers reporting arthritis. Overall, approximately 15% of all workers remain in the workforce at or past retirement age, and 44% have arthritis.

"The increasing age of the U.S. workforce presents new challenges for government, employers and working families," observes Peter Muennig, MD, MPH, associate professor of Health Policy and Management and senior author. "It is estimated that by the year 2030 approximately 67 million adults aged 18 years and older will have arthritis. Because the 'graying' workforce will be disproportionately represented by people from middle and lower occupational classes that also suffer from a higher prevalence of arthritis and a shorter life expectancy than wealthier Americans, Dr. Muennig points out that additional enhancements to federal programs such as better disability, health and unemployment insurance will be needed to maintain a higher quality of life for all workers, particularly for those with chronic conditions such as arthritis. "As the population ages in the face of expanding budget deficits, we face politically difficult choices if the U.S. is to prevent significant declines in its standard of living."

Source: Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health