Research: Sleep issues in older employees are correlated with mental stress factors

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WASHINGTON: An under-researched topic related to sleep among older workers is now better understood, thanks to a recent study from the Universities of Eastern Finland and Turku. In all, 2,771 Finnish municipal workers who were close to retirement were included in the study.

The study examined how mental and physical working conditions, stressful life situations, and work-life balance were associated with sleep problems in older employees.

Work and non-work stressors are associated with sleep problems

In another population study, more than half of Finnish men aged 60-69 and nearly 70% of Finnish women reported symptoms of insomnia during the past month.

“In our study, we identified four different components that are associated with mental stress. These are physical workload and shift work, psycho-social workload, social and environmental non-work adversity, life event, and health-related non-work adversity,” Professor of Psychology Marianna Virtanen of the University of Eastern Finland says.

Social and environmental non-work adversity refers to loneliness and little interaction with one’s neighbours. Life event- and health-related non-work adversity refers to a stressful event in one’s life, or the provision of informal care. “The more an employee had work and non-work stressors, the more problems they also had with sleep,” Prof Virtanen said.

Flexibility is an important target for development

Different stress factors were associated with sleep problems in different ways: work-related stress was linked to current sleep problems, whereas loneliness and stress related to one’s living environment predicted increasing sleep problems during the follow-up. Psychosocial working conditions were also associated with sleep quality.

“In this study, psychosocial working conditions were described by the contents and arrangements of work, such as opportunities for influencing and working hours, as well as by competence development, and fair management.”
Funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fund, the project provides information on factors at which development measures and interventions could be targeted for older employees.

“Especially when there are stress factors in private life, such as severe illness or death in the family, or being an informal caregiver for someone, flexible working hours are an important target for development,” Virtanen concludes. (ANI)

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