Tackling health inequalities and extending working lives (United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, Denmark)

Summary and overall aim

In Europe and Canada, policymakers are facing particular challenges related to rising life expectancy, a shift in the age profile of the population and the consequent increase in the prevalence of chronic illness and disability. But these increases in life expectancy are not experienced equally –there are inequalities that are frequently overlooked in policy-making. Less skilled workers, for example, have a shorter life expectancy, earlier onset of chronic illness and disability,are more likely to suffer from multiple health conditions as they get older. Policymakers in Europe and Canada urgently need to develop strategies that fairly extend working life taking these health inequalities into account. Our aim is therefore to conduct international research that advances our understanding of the differential impacts of health inequalities on the opportunity to work later in life and of strategies and policies for extending working life that take these health inequalities into consideration.

We expect our research to provide insights into the specific health conditions and combinations of health conditions that are likely to particularly limit the employment of more disadvantaged groups of older people and their carers in the future and the policy approaches that are most likely to prevent this. Our work plan engages policy-makers in appraising the evidence for different policy options to develop recommendations that can readily inform policy decisions. Our engagement with policy makers, employers and services, will enable adjustments in policy and practice in response to our findings to be integrated across multiple levels –including regulations, welfare systems, employment and health services.

Project details

THRIVE participated in the first joint call on ‘Extended Working Life and its Interaction with Health, Wellbeing and beyond’.

Project duration and budget

Project duration: January 2016 – December 2018.
Project costs/requested funding: €1.162.499


  • University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.
    Margaret Whitehead (coordinator)
  • Institute of Employment Studies, United Kingdom.
    Annette Cox
  • Karolinska Institute, Sweden.
    Bo Burström
  • Institute of Work and Health, Canada.
    Cameron Mustard
  • Statistics Canada, Canada.
    Wen-Hao Chen
    Edward Ng
    Sharanjit Uppal
  • University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
    Finn Diderichsen