Age Discrimination Linked to Worsened Mental Health

A team of university researchers has found that age discrimination in the workplace is “significantly related” to a series of negative outcomes for victims, including worsened mental health.


mental healthA team of university researchers has found that age discrimination in the workplace is “significantly related” to a series of negative outcomes for victims, including worsened mental health.

In addition to declining mental health, workers who are subject to age discrimination suffer higher general stress, increased job dissatisfaction, elevated turnover intentions and increased desires to retire.

The researchers created a scale called the Workplace Age Discrimination Scale to measure age discrimination in the workplace discrimination.  It includes the following questions:

  • I have been treated as though I am less capable due to my age.
  • I have been given fewer opportunities to express my ideas due to my age.
  • I have unfairly been evaluated less favorably due to my age.
  • I receive less social support due to my age.
  • My contributions are not valued as much due to my age.
  • Someone has delayed or ignored my requests due to my age.
  • Someone has blamed me for failures or problems due to my age.

The study, Age Discrimination in the Workplace and its Association with Health and Work: Implications for Social Policy, was primarily conducted by Dr. Ernest Gonzales, Assistant Professor and Peter Paul Professor at Boston University’s School of Social Work and Dr. Lisa Marchiondo, Assistant Professor of Industrial and Organizational Psychology at  Wayne State University.

Gonzales and Marchiondo urge Congress to pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, which has languished in committee since 2009, and the proposed Fair Employment Act of 2014, which expands the liability of employers when a worker in a protected class is subjected to a hostile workplace environment.  Both of these proposed laws are intended to fix U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have made it more difficult for victims to prevail in employment discrimination lawsuits.

The researchers found that both older and younger workers suffer from age discrimination at work, though older workers experienced slightly higher mental health consequences. Currently, only workers aged 40 and above are covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1964. The researchers propose expanding the ADEA to cover workers who are below the age of 40.

This is considerable debate about whether younger workers need or should receive protection funder the ADEA. Undoubtedly both younger and older workers suffer from age discrimination but there are more compelling reasons to protect older workers. For example, numerous studies show that older workers suffer from epidemic bias in hiring that greatly favors younger workers.  Older workers  frequently are terminated and replaced with younger workers by employers seeking to cut costs in bogus downsizings and restructurings. And studies of unconscious bias find that ageist stereotypes and fear of aging cause the vast majority of people of all ages prefer young people to old people. A 2002 study involving 68,144 participants found that age bias was “consistently larger” than racism among white Americans.

Author: pgb

Attorney at Law, author and blogger.

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