Doctor listening for a heart beat

Older working adults, particularly with physically demanding jobs, are healthier than their unemployed or retired counterparts, according to a study published Thursday in Preventing Chronic Disease.

Based on the 1997-2011 National Health Interview Survey of more than 83,000 adults ages 65 and older, people with physically demanding jobs had the lowest risk of poor health, according to researchers.

Being retired or unemployed was associated with poor health, even after accounting for smoking status, obesity and other health risks.

Service workers had the lowest risk of physical limitations, such as difficulty walking, climbing stairs, standing, sitting or carrying heavy objects. Blue collar workers had the lowest risk of physical limitations and the lowest risk of multiple chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

The improved health of blue collar workers might result from on-the-job physical activity, researchers said. Even in lower-status, lower-paying jobs, employment provided social support, income and health insurance benefits.

As the workforce ages, employers need to consider making accommodations for disabled older employees so they can work alongside healthier peers, according to the University of Miami researchers.