It is of vital importance that research is conducted with concise comparable data on how to keep people healthy and active at work, but it is also time to take concrete measures to motivate people to develop healthy lifestyles. This is one of the messages of the Breakfast Meeting Active Ageing @ Work hosted by Dutch MEP Judith Merkies.
Healthy people are self-employed
Researchers from Groningen, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Shell gave an insight in the research they conducted. For example Kristina Alexanderson who is a professor of Social Insurance at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institutet, gave an overview of the most healthy people in Sweden. Those people are mostly higher educated people, self-employed and single or with a partner without children. There is a lot of EU funding going to health (care) research. Alexanderson emphasized the absence of research on sickness leave and pled for inclusion of this topic in Horizon 2020. One of the other speakers was associate professor Ute Bültmann of the University Medical Center Groningen who argued that we need to create sustainable employment for all ages. We should look at what people still are capable of doing instead of what they cannot do anymore. This is a shift of mindset which asks for an integrated approach.
In order to establish a comparable comprehensive overview of the different country data on e.g. sickness leave, we need to make sure that data will be harmonized and standardized. When different methods and variables are used, one cannot make a European comparable data overview. However this is needed to get a grasp of the healthy and active ageing situation all across Europe. MEP Becker stated that this was a clear task for the EU.
Although the discussion mainly was about how to foster an active and healthy workforce, it was agreed that education is a means to establish healthy lifestyles and diets already from an early age. When good habits are being taught from primary school level onwards, the chances might be higher that people automatically develop healthy lifestyles for the rest of their lives.