Researchers from Georgia State University and Florida State University have found that working or volunteering can decrease the chances of chronic health conditions leading to physical disability in seniors.
Using data from the Health and Retirement Survey, the study found that people age 50 to 64 who worked full-time or part-time or volunteered up to 100 hours per year experienced a reduction in the extent to which chronic conditions were associated with subsequent functional limitations, such as the ability to walk a block or climb stairs.
Other measurements of subsequent functional limitations included in the data are stooping or kneeling, lifting or carrying 10 pounds, picking a dime up off the ground, and pushing or pulling a large object.
Georgia State University notes that, in the United States, nearly 20% of men and 30% of women older than 65 years old experience some form of functional limitation.
Study participants indicated whether they had ever been diagnosed with any of the chronic conditions: high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, heart problems, stroke, or arthritis.
Participants also reported whether they were engaged in full-time or part-time work over the past year, as well as the number of hours they volunteered during the same period.
According to the study, working full-time and part-time or volunteering less than 100 hours per years play a significant role in reducing the link between chronic conditions and functional limitations. The study found that workers and volunteers had fewer current physical limitations than their non-active counterparts. On average, they also had fewer chronic conditions.
The study also concluded that volunteering 100 hours or more didn’t reduce the association between chronic conditions and subsequent functional limitations, but it was important in limiting functional limitations. You can see the full study here.