Research summaries - Effects of perceived age discrimination

Effects of perceived age discrimination

By Barbara Griffin, Piers Bayl-Smith and Beryl Hesketh.


Age discrimination has been found to be a barrier to keeping people 45 years and older in the workforce, and it has also been found to have negative consequences for the motivation and productivity of older workers.

What was done?

This research was focused on understanding the long-term effects of perceived age discrimination on older workers (aged 55 years and older). In particular, the researchers were interested in whether perceived age discrimination lowered job satisfaction in older workers and increased the likelihood of them leaving work altogether.

What did they find?

  • 74% of the people who participated in the study reported experiencing some form of age discrimination (65% of sample one, n =726; and 83% of sample two, n = 1,552).
  • Being the target of perceived age discrimination has a negative effect on job satisfaction, lowering it significantly in both the short-term (within 3 weeks of the experience) and in the long-term (at 12 months following).
  • Older workers who perceived themselves as the target of age discrimination were much more likely to leave their jobs, and the workforce in general, than their counterparts who reported that they had not experienced age discrimination.

What does this mean?

Organisations need to be aware of the cumulative effects of age discrimination and act quickly to ensure workers are given the opportunity and assistance required to cope effectively with perceived age discrimination.

Addressing the levels of job satisfaction among older workers may help to uncover the cause and reduce perceptions of age discrimination within an organisation.

Organisations may be able to counter the effects of perceived age discrimination by creating post-employment opportunities for older workers who do not wish to remain in fulltime employment. Meaningful part-time or contract work is likely to help mitigate and counteract the long-term effects of perceived age discrimination and re-establish an older worker's sense of identification with and being of value to the organisation.

This summary is based on the paper:

Griffin, B., Bayl-Smith, P., and Hesketh, B. (2016). The longitudinal effects of perceived age discrimination on the job satisfaction and work withdrawal of older employees. Work, Aging and Retirement. doi:10.1093/workar/waw014 

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