Yale researchers find ageism is literally hurting older people all over the world

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Being the victim of age discrimination in the office can take a toll. Past research found that one in five US workers over the age of 40 has experienced age discrimination at work. Falling victim to ageism not only harms older workers from being able to acquire new work, but it also had nearly three-fourths of US workers age 50 and older believing their own age is a disadvantage when looking for work.

But ageism isn’t exclusively found in the US — it’s become a global phenomenon with harmful consequences, according to a new study conducted by Yale University.

Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health found that old people in nearly 50 counties and across five continents were subjected to age discrimination that hurt their health. The study, which included more than 7 million people aged 50 and older, found that biases against age had harmful outcomes in terms of both health and wellness.

For the study, which was published in PLOS ONE in January, researchers at Yale University analyzed 422 studies and found evidence of the adverse effects of ageism on older people’s health in nearly all — 96% — of the studies.

“The injurious reach of ageism that our team documented demonstrates the need for initiatives to overcome ageism,” said Yale Professor Becca Levy in a press release.

Levy and her team focused on “structural-level ageism” in the study, which includes denied access to health care. They also considered “individual-level ageism”, which often is seen in the workplace that are “stress-inducing negative age stereotypes” that affect the health of older persons.

Their findings showed harrowing outcomes of ageism, especially with mental health conditions, including depression and a shorter life expectancy.

The 11 measures were related to worse health due to ageism were:

  • Exclusion from health research
  • Devalued lives of older persons
  • Lack-of-work opportunities
  • Denied access to healthcare and treatments
  • Reduced longevity
  • Poor quality-of-life and well-being
  • Risky health behaviors
  • Poor social relations
  • Physical illness
  • Mental illness
  • Cognitive impairment

Most of these measures were seen across the studies including ageism in older people who were denied cars to health care, which was seen in 85% of the studies. Ageism in psychiatric conditions was found in 95% of the studies for conditions like depression, and other health conditions like shorter life expectancy.

Regardless of age, sex, race and ethnicity, researchers said the systematic review found ageism affected older persons across the board.

“Our research highlights the importance of recognizing the influence of ageism on health. Policies to improve older persons’ health must take ageism into account,” said E-Shien Chang, a doctoral student at Yale’s School of Public Health, and the study’s first author.

Signs of ageism at work

There are some obvious signs of ageism in the office that workers should be aware of.

Older workers being fired and younger ones being hired as replacements

  • AARP said one of the most glaring signs is when workers are being offered buyouts — or even being fired — with the industry buzz phrase “culture fit” being used against older workers.

Reassigned to new duties

  • Before your boss decides to replace or fire you, job reassignment is a key signal of ageism.

Chatter about your age

  • When workers ask when you’re going to retire.

No more raises

  • When you had a good year but received no pay raise unless you’re at the top.

Bad performance reviews

  • Have you mysteriously become a bad employee overnight? Be wary of what happens with your performance review. One sign could be a CEO or manager purposely giving you worse scores in order to force a move.
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