‘Squeezed generation’ of middle-aged workers take most sick days


Employers’ concerns regarding the ageing workforce are usually based on the belief older workers will tend to struggle more with health problems. However, new data from AXA PPP healthcare reveals it’s the middle band of workers (30-49) that take more sick days than any other age group; averaging 2.3 sick days in the past six months; with a quarter of these workers taking three or four days off sick. Twelve per cent of this middle age group have taken the equivalent of a working week off sick (5 or 6 days) in the past six months, double the number of 18-29 year olds (6%) and just 5 per cent of those 50-69. This ‘squeezed generation,’ faced with the pressures of balancing work and home, takes least positive steps to help ensure good health; has a fairly negative outlook regarding their jobs and is more stressed than other age group.

The data shows that this core group of workers have worse health habits than both the younger and older generations, as one in five 30-49 year olds regularly skip meals altogether five or more days per week compared with 15 per cent of 18-29 year olds and just 8 per cent of those aged 50-69.

These workers also demonstrate a pretty negative outlook with regards to their jobs. Fifteen per cent of 30-49 year olds feel they don’t have a career path, and 29 per cent of 30-49 year olds say they feel as if their career path has reached a plateau.

Twenty-seven per cent of middle aged workers – the most of any age group – feel as if their employment situation does not allow them to pursue their top life priorities.

Furthermore, 38 per cent of middle aged workers feel stressed all or most of the time. The chief causes of stress for this age group are: financial worries (43 per cent) and pressure from or worries about work (41 and 38 per cent, respectively). Thirty-seven per cent of workers in their 30s say they feel older than their years.

Dr Steve Iley, AXA PPP healthcare’s medical director for health services, says:

“Employers need to recognise that these middle aged workers are a particularly squeezed group, struggling with work and home pressures. The research suggests that many are not motivated or feeling valued in their work, an issue we would encourage employers to proactively address as the 30-49 age group are likely to have at least 20 years left in the workplace.

“Employers need to support their workers’ mental and physical health, offering positive steps to ensure wellbeing now will help to ensure resilience in future.”