Impact of age stereotypes on wellbeing of 50+ workers


Do you know that a stereotype can influence your functioning? This mechanism is called ‘stereotype threat’ and it refers to being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s group. For example, when women are told that men are better in science they get worse scores on math tests. However, when they receive no such information, their scores are significantly better. The same mechanism has been observed in the context of age stereotypes, e.g. in memory tests. Although it may seem that the stereotype threat reveals only in temporary situations and its effects are short-term (e.g. worse tasks performance), in the research project carried out in CIOP-PIB, long-term effects on the functioning of older employees were studied. Employees aged 50 – 75 were asked if they experienced a stereotype threat in their company. Then, the relationship between the stereotype threat and various indicators of their professional functioning was measured.
Preliminary results show that the stereotype threat at work is a predictor of several work and wellbeing related factors. It is associated with lower work ability, lack of motivation to work, increased stress and depression symptoms, lower self-efficacy and resilience. It is also related to lower sense of justice and respect at work, as assessed by employees 50+. Older employees who experienced age stereotypes at work had higher intent to leave work after reaching the retirement age and were less prone to participate in professional development trainings, courses, etc.
The results show that the age stereotypes can be a real threat for a long-term professional functioning of older employees. In-depth analysis of the results will be conducted in 2016 and on this basis practical implications for employers and employees 50+ will be formulated. This research project is carried out by CIOP-PIB within the scope of the third phase of the National Programme “Improvement of safety and working conditions” 2014-2016, partly supported by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education/National Centre for Research and Development.

For more information contact: Zofia Mockałło (


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