Musculoskeletal pain leads to premature retirement

Musculoskeletal pain alters retirement timing and work cessation in older adults.


A recent study from the University of Portsmouth reveals that frequent musculoskeletal pain is linked to an increased likelihood of leaving work and retiring earlier. The study, which was published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, found that this link persisted even after accounting for variables like gender, job satisfaction, and working conditions.

Dr. Nils Niederstrasser and his team analyzed data from 1,156 individuals aged 50 and above in England who participated in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Over the 14-year study period, 1,073 of these individuals retired.

Researchers found that people with musculoskeletal discomfort typically retired earlier than people without pain. Furthermore, whether or not they officially retired, people with musculoskeletal pain were 1.25 times more likely to quit their jobs prematurely.

Dr Nils Niederstrasser, Senior lecturer said, “It is remarkable that pain predicts earlier retirement and work cessation to a similar extent or even more strongly than other variables, such as job satisfaction or specific job demands. It shows just how much impact pain can have on all aspects of people’s lives.”

According to earlier studies, those who suffer from chronic musculoskeletal discomfort frequently have lower incomes, less workable hours, and greater absence rates. On the other hand, the impact of chronic pain on older persons’ work status has received less attention.

Dr. Niederstrasser from the University’s Department of Psychology noted that as people age, pain becomes more common. Their study emphasized that pain, more than any other factor, predicts whether someone retires early.

Moreover, early retirement was associated with variables like job discontent and perceived social standing. Frequent musculoskeletal discomfort was found to be a major predictor of early retirement and leaving the workforce at younger ages, even after controlling for job satisfaction, depressive symptoms, social status, gender, and working conditions.

The study’s authors suggest that experiencing pain can lead to negative work outcomes. They recommend further research to understand why people with frequent musculoskeletal pain leave the workforce and what factors influence their decisions.

The importance of pain in people’s life was underlined by Dr. Niederstrasser, who pointed out that it frequently predicts early retirement and quitting employment more strongly than other characteristics like job satisfaction. He emphasised that in order to maintain people’s health and ability to work, pain must be addressed as soon as possible.

Dr. Niederstrasser also warned of potential crises if individuals retire early due to pain without sufficient financial support, exacerbating existing issues of poverty among older populations.

Chronic musculoskeletal pain often leads to earlier retirement. This indicates the need for better support and interventions to address pain and prevent negative work outcomes for affected individuals.

Journal reference:

  1. Nils Georg Niederstrasser, Elaine Wainwright et al., Musculoskeletal pain affects the age of retirement and the risk of work cessation among older people. PLOS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0297155.