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Paper Chase

The wear and tear on health: What is the role of occupation?

Health Econ. Sep 13, 2017.
Ravesteijn B, Kippersluis HV, Doorslaer EV.

Tinbergen Institute, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


Health is well known to show a clear gradient by occupation. Although it may appear evident that occupation can affect health, there are multiple possible sources of selection that can generate a strong association, other than simply a causal effect of occupation on health. We link job characteristics to German panel data spanning 29 years to characterize occupations by their physical and psychosocial burden. Employing a dynamic model to control for factors that simultaneously affect health and selection into occupation, we find that selection into occupation accounts for at least 60% of the association. The effects of occupational characteristics such as physical strain and low job control are negative and increase with age: late-career exposure to 1 year of high physical strain and low job control is comparable to the average health decline from ageing 16 and 6 months, respectively.