Health & Wellbeing

Work plays a huge role in the wellness and happiness of mature Australians

Employment experts say Australia’s mature aged people looking for work are facing challenges with their mental health and wellbeing

For mature age workers, getting a job means they can enjoy a self-sufficient and fulfilling life as well as the health benefits work can bring, and yet there are currently around 180,500 people in the 45–64 age group unemployed[1] and their wellbeing, meaning how satisfied they are with their life, being comfortable, healthy, happy, their sense of purpose, and how in control they feel, is well below average.

Overall, the wellbeing of unemployed people in Australia is low (2.81 out of 5) when compared to the wellbeing of employed Australians (3.46 out of 5). Within this, certain demographic groups have lower than average wellbeing with mature aged (2.77)[2] being one of the lowest, according to atWork Australia.

The main predictors of wellbeing for mature aged unemployed people are not so different from the average unemployed person. Mature aged people are looking for work that have a strong sense of purpose, who feel financially secure and who like themselves just as they are will, on average, have higher wellbeing.

Having quality personal connections is a uniquely important driver of wellbeing for the mature aged person looking for work. Feeling appreciated and cared for is strongly associated with higher wellbeing, as is being heard by others. Those who report feeling part of a community, who spend quality time with their loved ones, and who feel less lonely or isolated are more likely to have higher wellbeing than other mature aged job seekers.

Australians are not just living longer; they’re working longer too. In 2017, 20% of Australians said that they intend to work past the age of 70 years old, compared to 8% the decade prior. Work is proven to be good for health and wellbeing, however, older Australians can face many barriers to employment, with one-third having experienced discrimination based on age when applying for work.

“Our recent research[3] provides a data-driven roadmap for improving job seeker wellbeing,” says Sotir Kondov, Group Executive Employment Services, atWork Australia. “Surprisingly, what we have learned from undertaking this research is that mature aged people looking for work have lower wellbeing compared to their younger colleagues. We understand how important having a job is to this age group and by addressing the most important needs of our mature clients, Employment Services providers can have a real impact on improving their wellbeing and guiding them into the best position to find the right job, not just the first job.”

At the heart of atWork Australia’s purpose is the belief that work is for everyone. atWork Australia knows that employment transforms lives, not just for the individuals concerned, but for their families, friends and communities. “Mature age workers, have a lifetime of skills and experience to offer; in addition to reliability, strong work ethic and mentoring skills. Many may think that younger equals better, and that younger employees are generally more literate in new technologies, and have new and innovative ideas. However, by incorporating the mindset and experience of older generations, businesses can drive more effective teams. This generation is more loyal and want to learn about and engage with new technologies.”

As a leading provider of employment services in Australia, atWork Australia understands that beyond vocational skills and expertise, a person requires the social, mental and physical capability to engage with and maintain employment, and all the positive outcomes that come with it. “It’s important that we connect people with work that fits not only their skills but also their aspirations and values enabling both them and the businesses they work for to thrive,” says Kondov. “We understand that good quality employment is good for improving mental health, and employment can decrease the risk of depression, and we know the profound impact work has not only on their individual mental health, but the wellbeing of their family, friends, and the wider community. For mature people looking for work, who may live alone as family members become independent, work ticks many of the drivers/predictors for wellbeing.”

How Mark tackled his mental health to find a rewarding job

Mark, 54, has spent most of his working life painting houses. Due to living with a medical condition, Mark was looking for a career change. Being in his 50s, he was worried that it was too late to learn new tricks and wondered how he would get by.

Mark lost his confidence and became anxious, not knowing what to do, where to go or what his options were. “Starting out fresh again when being in my 50s is tough, especially with my comfort zone gone. I have always been told, ‘Get a trade and you will always have a job,” says Mark.

Mark was concerned that his employment options were limited due to his work experiences being only in one area of expertise. When he contacted atWork Australia he connected with Job Coach Simone. “Simone made the sign-up process very easy. The process was really explained to me well, including the expectations from me and the assistance I would receive. Simone took the time to get to know me and my interests, and assisted me in getting some focus back,” says Mark.

Simone suggested additional training in an area Mark would not have considered himself and enrolled him in a Certificate IV in Community Services. Once Mark successfully completed his training, Simone suggested a role as a Job Coach at atWork Australia, taking into account his exceptional interpersonal skills.

Mark was very excited about his new role and the ability to pay his bills again. “I’m looking forward to learning new skills and facing the challenges that a career change brings. It has been a lot of learning but working with clients has made the change worthwhile. Simone was excited that I am now working in an area that would allow some of the skills I had taken for granted being utilised. It also provides me with the opportunity to assist people in making the types of changes, she has supported me to make.”

Simone says, “Mark proved himself to be a real people person, who genuinely wanted to make a difference. He was encouraged to explore all options, to have faith in himself and to step outside his comfort zone.”

Kondov adds, “We know that when stressful events coincide, like COVID-19, job insecurity and financial worries, they can take an extreme toll on people’s mental health that ripples through their family and touches everyone. atWork Australia’s holistic approach to employment begins by understanding a person’s goals and aspirations before working to build their capability and match them with the right opportunities. Our programs such as Positivum™, developed in partnership with Monash University, offer online one-on-one health and wellbeing coaching to understand the health and wellness of people looking for work, and to remove barriers towards work and get them job-ready.”

Respecting the attributes of mature aged workers that come with age and experience, and the value and benefits mature aged workers bring to businesses is a win for both the business and the individual. Work provides the foundation to fulfil a mature person’s potential and live a life they value.

About the atWork Australia Job Seeker Wellbeing Index

The Index is based on the direct input of over 1,200 Australians who responded to the atWork Australia Job Seeker Wellbeing Index survey. It has identified what people need in terms of capability and provided an opportunity to maximise wellbeing to better inform policy development and program implementation for atWork Australia. To ensure the Index provides reliable insights, we endeavoured to obtain a representative sample of job seekers throughout Australia.

About atWork Australia

atWork Australia has been delivering employment services on behalf of the Australian Government since 2003. From more than 340 locations around the nation, atWork Australia delivers Disability Employment Services (DES),

Indigenous Employment Services, jobactive, and ParentsNext, connecting people and business so both can thrive.  

Partnering with more than 6700 employers across the country in 2020, atWork Australia placed over 11,000 Australians into meaningful and sustainable employment in 2020, across a diverse range of industries and occupations.


[2] atWork Australia Job Seeker Wellbeing Index

[3] atWork Australia Job Seeker Wellbeing Index