has not, however, been much research on the effects of workplace exposures on health in the presence of controlled clinical conditions or their treatments.
The limited efforts to study the relation between age and job performance have been inconclusive, possibly due to the varying balance between cognitive declines and the benefits of age- or job-related experience. These efforts could be enhanced by accelerated development of the O*NET (Occupational Information Network) database, a replacement for the Dictio-nary of Occupational Titles that describes in detail the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform jobs; this would facilitate matching of the capabilities and limitations of older workers to the knowledge, skills, and abilities required by jobs. The O*NET is described on the U.S. Department of Labor website at www.doleta.gov/programs/onet.
In addition to the emphasis on physical, chemical, and biomechanical workplace hazards, there has been increasing recognition of the work-related mental health and psychosocial and organizational issues among older workers. This recognition may be due in part to a shift in the United States and most industrialized countries from a manufacturing to a service economy, where interpersonal issues are more apparent. In many respects older workers appear to have higher levels of emotional stability than young adults. It is likely that among older persons, workers are less likely than nonworkers to have serious or severe mental illness or disorder because of the debilitating nature of these conditions. Yet, certain workplace situations may have disparate effects on older workers’ mental health, such as ageism, increasing physical and cognitive demands, and pressure to retire.
Mental health problems with job implications include the consequences of work-related stress, clinical depression, and a variety of other psychological problems such as burnout, alcohol, and other substance abuse, un-explained physical symptoms, and chronic fatigue as well as the secondary consequences of these conditions, such as longer absences associated with injuries. Older workers may bring to the workplace mental health problems that have long histories and origins outside of the job setting. Common or severe mental conditions such as depression may cause stress, conflict, poor productivity and, potentially, threats to individual safety and health related to the conditions or their treatments. There is evidence that work-related stress impairs worker satisfaction and productivity and may contribute to long-term physical diseases and conditions, as well as increase the costs of absenteeism and low productivity. Work-related stressful experiences, including injuries, can contribute to depression, and enduring structural factors in some institutions lead to various psychological problems.
The prevalence of problem drinking and alcoholism among older workers is not known, but the consequences of alcohol abuse are known to be