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Trajectories of work ability from mid-life to pensionable age and their association with retirement timing
  1. Prakash K C1,2,
  2. Marianna Virtanen3,
  3. Mika Kivimäki4,5,6,
  4. Jenni Ervasti5,
  5. Jaana Pentti1,2,4,
  6. Jussi Vahtera1,2,
  7. Sari Stenholm1,2
  1. 1 Department of Public Health, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
  2. 2 Centre for Population Health Research, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
  3. 3 School of Educational Sciences and Psychology, Itä-Suomen yliopisto, Joensuu, Finland
  4. 4 Clinicum, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  5. 5 Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland
  6. 6 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Prakash K C, Department of Public Health, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, 20500 Turku, Finland; prakkc{at}; prakashkc10{at}


Background This study aimed to identify the trajectories of work ability over 16 years preceding the individual pensionable age and to examine the association with retirement timing.

Methods The study population consisted of 2612 public sector employees from the Finnish Retirement and Aging study and the Finnish Public Sector study. Participants were grouped into ‘no-extension’ (retired at the individual pensionable date or worked no longer than 6 months after that date) and ‘extension’ (worked more than 6 months after individual pensionable age). Trajectories of self-reported work ability score (0–10) in maximum of eight measurement points over 16 years preceding retirement were examined using the group-based latent trajectory analysis. Log-binomial regression was used to analyse the association between trajectory groups and extended employment.

Results Four stable (‘Stable excellent’, 7%; ‘Stable high’, 62%; ‘Stable medium’, 24%; ‘Low’, 4%) and one decreasing (‘Declining’, 3%) work ability trajectories were identified. After taking into account gender, age, occupational status, marital status and self-rated health, ‘Stable excellent’ trajectory was associated with a higher likelihood of extended employment compared with the ‘Low’ (risk ratio (RR) 2.38, 95% CI 1.21 to 4.68) and to the ‘Declining’ (RR 2.82, 95% CI 1.32 to 6.01) trajectories. There was no difference in retirement timing between ‘Declining’, ‘Low’ and ‘Stable medium’ trajectories.

Conclusion Work ability remained relatively stable among majority of the participants over 16 years of follow-up. Stable excellent work ability from mid-life to late career was associated with higher likelihood of extending employment beyond individual pensionable age than those with low or declining work ability.

  • employment
  • epidemiology of ageing
  • workplace
  • cohort studies

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Contributors SS, JV, MK, MV and JE contributed to the planning, conception, design and implementation of the study. PKC, JP and SS contributed to the finalisation and analysis of the data. PKC drafted the manuscript. SS, JP, JV, MK, JE and MV contributed to critical revision of the manuscript in different phases, until it was finalised.

  • Funding This work was supported by the Academy of Finland (286294, 319246 and 294154 to SS; 321409 and 329240 to JV), the Finnish Work Environment Fund (118060 to SS; 190172 to MV; partly by 190306 to PKC) and the NordForsk (70521 to JV).

  • Disclaimer The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.