The health behaviors of the older US worker

Lora E. Fleming, David J. Lee, Alberto J.Caban Martinez, William G. LeBlanc, Kathryn E. McCollister, Katherine Chung Bridges, Sharon L. Christ, Kristopher L. Arheart, Terry Pitman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Background: As the US workforce ages, lifestyle factors will increasingly affect their health, yet little information is available on their prevalence in older working populations. Methods: Using the nationally representative 1997-2003 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), reported current smoking, risky drinking and leisure-time physical activity behaviors of older workers (≥65 years) were compared with older non-workers. These behaviors were evaluated by age, gender, race, ethnicity, and occupation, as well as prototype "healthy" and "risky" persons. Results: The study population of 4,946 older US workers and 38,313 older non-workers represented an estimated 3.9 million older workers and 28.9 million older non-workers annually. Relative to older non-workers, older workers reported more current smoking and risky drinking, but higher levels of leisure-time physical activity with variations by subpopulations. Conclusions: Less than 4% of the older US worker population reported overall healthy behaviors. Certain occupations and other subpopulations can be targeted for age-appropriate behavioral interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-437
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007



  • Ethanol abuse
  • Exercise
  • Occupation
  • Smoking
  • Tobacco use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this

Fleming, L. E., Lee, D. J., Martinez, A. J. C., LeBlanc, W. G., McCollister, K. E., Bridges, K. C., Christ, S. L., Arheart, K. L., & Pitman, T. (2007). The health behaviors of the older US worker. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 50(6), 427-437.