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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mature adults in Australia


Led by Dr Gigi Petery, CEPAR researchers Dr Daniela Andrei, Lucinda Iles, Professor Sharon Parker and Leah Zoszak are conducting a longitudinal large-scale investigation on the impact of COVID-19 on Australian adults aged 45 and older. 

Over 1,500 employed, unemployed, and recently retired mature-aged individuals have participated by reporting on their work, life, and wellbeing experiences during this year.

The research team recently released a series of three information sheets, based on responses from over 1,500 mature workers to the Time 1 survey, that reveal the potential ‘protective’ role that work has played for mature individuals during the pandemic:

“On the health/health risk front, mature workers are faring better than their unemployed and retired counterparts, reporting greater perceived health, and feeling less at risk of contracting COVID-19,” said Professor Sharon Parker.

“In terms of the impact of COVID-19 on work and wellbeing, mature workers are currently experiencing a significant shift to working from home or redeployment in their roles. These actions were associated with experiencing less age discrimination at work when compared to pre-pandemic times.”

Related to these changes, the survey results find that mature workers are also perceiving increased meaning and value in their work contributions; and key work design factors, such as supervisor and colleague support during the pandemic, are associated with increased psychological wellbeing and lower feelings of burnout, according to the findings.

“On average, Australians spend over 40 hours per week at work so it follows that working conditions and the availability of social supports have an impact on the way we perceive our work and general environment,” said Professor Parker.

“While the pandemic has brought about many health and economic challenges across the globe, it may also have created opportunities for improving the ways in which we work and live,” she said.

“Our research is investigating potentially protective work factors in an effort to improve post-pandemic work experiences for workers of all ages.”

The findings from this research provide insights into how changes to work introduced during the pandemic have impacted work and wellbeing outcomes for mature adults.

“Time 2 data collection is currently underway, which brings greater opportunity to further investigate how and when good work provides a protective influence on the lives of mature workers,” said Professor Sharon Parker.

While Professor Parker’s research team has been focused on mature employee experiences during the pandemic, Professor Marian Baird is leading a  project on how employers have managed mature workers in the same period. Findings will be released early next year.