older workerIn a surprising finding, new research out of Great Britain shows that many employers in their 60s have a lower “relative vitality age” – and thus, lower health risks – than colleagues in their 30s.

The Britain’s Healthiest Company Report* crunched numbers on nearly 10,000 people and concluded that the sexagenarians in the survey had lower health risks based on a “Vitality Age calculator” developed by PruHealth, a health insurer and wellness program provider. Mercer, a global talent, health and retirement consultant, also helped produce the report.

The calculator estimates years of life lost or gained by taking into consideration the presence or absence of certain clinical and lifestyle risk factors, and through this, can gauge a true level of health by assessing if the ‘health age’ matches the actual chronological age.

How ages are calculated

The average Vitality (health) Age of those in their 60s is 3.9 years older than their actual age, which is closer in line to those in their 20s (whose average Vitality Age is 3.8 years older than their actual age). Those in their 30s and 40s have a higher Vitality Age difference, at 4.26 and 4.3 years respectively. An older Vitality Age, due to poor lifestyle choices such as smoking and little exercise, is costing people years off their lives, making them unhealthy and old before their time.

PruHealth’s Dr Katie Tryon said people in their 30s and 40s who should be in the prime of their lives may be affected by stressful jobs or the pressures of new parenthood.

Youth is no longer on their side

“Our research has highlighted that those in their 60s are closer, in terms of their health risk age difference, to those in their 20s,” said Tryon. “Perhaps, believing youth to no longer be on their side, they are more conscientious when it comes to life choices.”

No exercise = shorter life

According to the report, the biggest contributing factors for an older Vitality Age are lack of physical activity and being overweight. Out of the 10,000 UK employees who took part in the survey, nearly sixty per cent (59%) of respondents do not do enough physical activity. One in seven (15%) workers admit to doing no exercise which costs them, according to the authors, 7.4 years off their life.

Start small and get bigger

Dr Katie Tryon continues: “The results are quite stark. Those who live an unhealthy life will live a shorter life. There are simple ways to bring down your Vitality Age: eating healthily, looking after your body by not smoking or drinking too much, and by losing excess weight. Doing regular exercise is paramount but this doesn’t mean you need to run a marathon. It can be as easy as getting off the bus a stop early or taking the stairs rather than the escalator. It’s easy to take matter into your own hands, starting small and getting bigger. The results will be undeniable.”

Longer working hours, a tougher economic climate and being members of the “sandwich generation” that has to look after both parents and children can cause younger people to neglect their own health, according to the report.

A challenge for employers

Having employees of all ages in the workplace can be challenging for employers trying to provide health programs for their workers. “The needs of a millennial with no dependants are very different from those of a grandparent baby boomer,” said John Anderson, UK Market Business Leader for Health and Benefits at Mercer.

Anderson said his company has seen an increasing demand for flexible benefits programs that allows employers to provide choices and provide options that enable employees to remain healthy in a way that fits with their lifestyle.

 “Lifestyles can differ by a range of factors and generational factors are key. There will be different health challenges and needs across those different demographics and a well-designed health and wellbeing plan meets those different needs whilst containing employer spend.”

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