As older adults are increasingly remaining in or returning to professional employment, there is greater interest in how age might influence the experience of work. Older workers tend to bring more workplace experience that can help manage the effects of job stress. On the other hand, younger workers may find it easier to pursue new career options, which may alleviate some of the effects of workplace stress. A group of researchers in Finland examined the effects of age as a moderator between job stress and well-being among three different occupations: service employees, nurses, and academic workers. The study found that younger and older workers had distinct relationships between job stress and well-being.
The researchers drew from previous findings on aging and employee well-being, which have been largely inconsistent. While many studies have found positive relationships between age and job satisfaction, others have found no such association, or have found negative relationships. The authors hypothesized that age may play a more complicated, moderating role in the relationship between work and well-being, which may differ across occupations and across aspects of well-being.
The authors then examined three different types of employees, focusing on how age might strengthen or weaken the relationship between job stressors and well-being outcomes. The authors looked at three types of job stress (job insecurity, workload, and work-family conflict), and four different types of well-being: work-family enrichment (whether a particular job is an asset to one’s role as a family member), life satisfaction, job satisfaction, and vigor (or energy). The authors examined how these forms of stress and well-being were related across different age groups and professions.
As hypothesized, the authors found that different professions had different relationships between age, well-being, and work stress. Among service employees, the relationship between work and family was less vulnerable to higher workloads. Among service workers and nurses, youth buffered the effects of job insecurity on vigor. (For nurses, this was also true for work-family relationships and job satisfaction.) Among academics, work-family conflict negatively influenced life satisfaction among both older and younger workers. These findings suggest that older and younger workers may require different forms of stress management assistance, which in turn may differ across industries.
Mauno S, Ruokolainen M, and Kinnunen U. Does aging make employees more resilient to job stress? Age as a moderator in the job stressor–well-being relationship in three Finnish occupational samples. Aging & Mental Health (2013); 17(4): 411–422.