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Northern Ireland: Six in 10 UK employees fear they won’t be up to the job when working into old age

CSP press release published on 12 June 2013

But too few are exercising enough to prevent ill-health and bosses must do more, physios warn.

UK workers facing later retirement ages fear not being up to the job physically or mentally, new polling for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) shows.

Just over six in 10 (61 per cent) were concerned about being too tired to continue normal hours when asked to imagine that they had to work into old age, while nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) feared developing a serious illness that could affect their ability to do their job.

But the CSP, which commissioned the research by YouGov, said the results also showed people were not doing enough exercise (classed as ‘moderate to vigorous physical activity’)to help reduce the risk of ill-health as they get older.

More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of those polled said that on average they were not getting two and a half hours of exercise a week, which is the minimum amount recommended by the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers.

Regular physical activity can help reduce the chances of developing the sorts of health conditions - such as arthritis or Alzheimer’s disease - that 65 per cent said they feared in the future.

The results are being released to coincide with the CSP’s ‘Workout at Work Day’ on June 12 when physiotherapy staff across the UK encourage people to be more physically active in order to combat stress and avoid musculoskeletal disorders, like back pain.

More than 800 physiotherapists will go into workplaces across the UK to demonstrate easy, low-cost ways for employers to help their staff lead healthier lives.

Phil Gray, chief executive of the CSP, said:

“We completely understand the fears people have about working longer.

“But if people are going to retire later, they need to develop and maintain the healthy habits now that will give them the best possible chance of staying well enough to work as they get older.

“Physiotherapists treat people with illness and injuries that can be linked to inactivity so they witness first-hand the consequences it has for health and working life.”

Other results from the CSP’s Aviva-sponsored survey of 2,041 adults across the UK included:

  • More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of workers were worried about having to work for longer than previous generations in order to have enough money in their retirement;
  • 30 per cent of 18-24 year olds and 28 per cent of 25-34 year olds surveyed believed they would be into their seventies before they could retire and draw a pension;
  • When workers were asked to imagine having to work into old age, women were more worried than men on every count, particularly about developing a serious illness that could affect their ability to work (72 per cent were very or fairly worried compared to 58 per cent for men)

Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, said:

“For many of us, the workplace is where we spend much of our adult life and it can have a huge impact - both positive and negative - on our physical and mental health and wellbeing. Taking regular physical activity improves your physical, social and emotional skills, increases self-esteem and helps build confidence and resilience. In addition exercise is also recognised as a factor in preventing and addressing depression and reduce anxiety which can hugely benefit productivity and the workplace.

“Many jobs are of a sedentary nature but there are ways in which employers can encourage staff to be more physically active – through promoting active travel to work, be it by walking or cycling, or lunchtime opportunities for general recreation or sports and team events, which can contribute to the development of physical and mental wellbeing.

“I endorsed the revised Physical Activity Guidelines in July 2011 called Start Active, Stay Active. These include guidelinesfor adults to get 150 minutes of physical activity a week in bouts of ten minutes or more and to aim to be active every day (30 minutes five times a week is just one way this can be achieved). Employers who provide opportunities for their staff to fulfil theses guidelines will help individuals gain significant health benefits.

“As our working life gets longer I would encourage all employers to ensure that their employees are leading an active lifestyle which will in turn contribute to a productive and resilient workforce and I congratulate the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy for raising the profile of this important issue.”

The results of the CSP’s survey suggest that too few employers are doing enough to look after the wellbeing of their workforce and to prepare people for a longer career. Among employed people:

  • Just 17 per cent of those surveyed said their boss encourages them to take proper breaks, such as lunch or even annual leave.
  • Only seven per cent of those who work said they were offered fast track access to physiotherapy services, which can ensure short-term problems do not develop into long-term conditions.
  • And when given a list of nine benefits designed to keep staff fit for work, more than a third (39 per cent)of working respondents said their employer offered ‘none of these’.

The CSP believes it is essential for managers to view wellbeing of their staff as central to the long-term success of their organisation.

The Society is calling on employers to provide direct and early access to physiotherapy and include a discussion about general health and wellbeing during staff annual appraisals.

For more information on Workout at Work Day, visit

For further media information about the CSP please call the CSP press office on 020 7306 1111, email Out of hours please call Becca Bryant, head of press and PR (job-share) on 079172 40819, Jennie Edmondson, head of press and PR (job share) on 07786 332197, Jon Ryan, media and PR officer on 07917 091200 or Paul Marston, media and PR officer, on 07766 994141.


Notes to editors

  1. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the UK’s professional, educational and trade union body. We have more than 51,000 members, including chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and support workers.
  2. Health insurer Aviva and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) recently announced a three year partnership across the CSP’s Fit for Work initiative. The programme of activity and resources are designed to improve the wellbeing of the UK workforce and highlight the importance of physiotherapy in preventing and reducing work related ill-health and sickness absence.
  3. 3.       All figures are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,041 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken 3-6 May, 2013.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  4. 4.       The retirement age is being equalised for men and women. It is rising to 66 for both sexes by 2020, then to 67 by 2028. More information, and a retirement calculator, can be found at


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