Healthy Finland Survey: More than one half of 65–74-year-olds feel fully able to work – still only a small proportion is in paid employment

Publication date 7 Nov 2023

There are more than 700,000 Finnish people aged between 65 and 74 years. Almost 390,000, or 55 per cent of them consider themselves fully able to work. However, of these 55 per cent, only under 40,000, or approximately 10 per cent, are in paid employment. This means that there is a large group of people over the retirement age whose potential in the labour market remains unused. 

“Workplaces can support older employees with flexible practices that consider their work ability.  It would be important to adjust the working hours, work tasks and working conditions where necessary to make them more suitable for different kinds of employees. Work opportunities for older people should be enhanced, and they should be communicated about to both employees and employers to reduce age discrimination, for example,” says Chief Specialist Päivikki Koponen

“However, paid employment is not a realistic possibility to everyone who feels able to work. Participation in voluntary work and hobbies is important so that older people can feel included and maintain their functional capacity,” Koponen continues. 

More and more older people feel they need help in everyday chores

The older population is very diverse and the health of people of the same age may vary a lot: some may find it difficult to walk, while others can even run. 

Twenty-eight per cent of women aged 65–74 and 51 per cent of those aged 75 and over felt they needed help with everyday chores because of their reduced functional capacity. Nineteen per cent of men aged 65–74 and 41 per cent of those aged 75 and over felt they needed help.  The need for help increased somewhat in 2022 compared with 2018 and 2020.

Some older people need help, for example, for leaving their home to go out. Up to 27 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men aged 85 and over had great difficulty leaving their home. 

Sufficient mobility and functional ability make it possible to manage matters outside home and participate in events that the person finds interesting, both of which enhance well-being and the quality of life. 

“It is extremely important that measures promoting the mobility and functional capacity of older people have been recorded in the Government Programme. In addition, the subjective right of older people to engage in outdoor activities have been separately considered in it. It must also be ensured that those with great difficulties with everyday chores get enough help at home and also a place in a care home, if necessary,” says Senior Researcher Katri Sääksjärvi.

Problems with functional capacity are most common in the group with the lowest level of education 

There are differences in functional capacity between the education groups. The differences are clearly visible in all areas of functional capacity in adults of all ages: limits in functional capacity are the most common in the groups with the lowest level of education, less common in the group with the highest level of education. The differences are visible in both men and women.

For example, about four per cent of highly educated people aged 20 and over had great difficulty walking a distance of 500 metres, but the proportion was twice as large in the lowest education group. 

The differences in work ability were similar: the proportion of men aged 20–74 who felt fully or partly unable to work was more than double (31%) the proportion of highly educated people (14%). For women, the corresponding differences were also clear, but slightly smaller than for men (31% in the lowest vs. 20% in the highest education group).

“The big differences between the education groups are caused by many factors that society can influence. For example, the differences can be reduced by improving the financial and other preconditions for the most disadvantaged groups to make choices that promote their health and functional capacity. In addition, it is important to recognise difficulties in functional capacity early enough, when it is easier to address them,” explains Research Professor Seppo Koskinen.

New information on the population’s functional capacity

THL’s recent Healthy Finland Survey examined how people cope in their daily life, in other words, their functional capacity, diversely with questionnaires and measurements. The survey was implemented in autumn 2022 and in spring 2023. Responses were received from 28,000 people over the age of 20 (46% of those invited) and 5,700 participated in the health examination (58% of those invited). 

The survey confirms that the level of the population's functional capacity has remained more or less the same since the beginning of the 2010s, when its positive development ended. 

The promotion of functional capacity is an increasingly important task in social policy, as a population with good functional capacity and work ability is an important resource in an ageing Finland. Functional capacity should be promoted by supporting people’s opportunities to have a healthy lifestyle and live in a healthy environment at throughout their life.  The environment should also be modified to enable people with a weaker functional capacity to cope in their daily life.  


Work ability, online report (in Finnish), Results of the Healthy Finland Survey

Need for help and receiving it, online report (in Finnish), Results of the Healthy Finland Survey

Managing everyday chores, online report (in Finnish), Results of the Healthy Finland Survey

Physical functional capacity, online report (in Finnish), Results of the Healthy Finland Survey

Healthy Finland online reports (also include other results on work ability and functional capacity and results on perceived quality of life and perceived health) (in Finnish)

Further information:

Seppo Koskinen
Research Professor
tel. +358 29 524 8762
[email protected]

Päivikki Koponen
Chief Specialist, Horizontal activities, working-age people
tel. +358 29 524 8868
[email protected]

Katri Sääksjärvi
Senior Researcher
tel. +358 29 524 8798
[email protected]

Healthy Finland Survey

Results of the Healthy Finland Survey

Previously on this survey:

Healthy Finland Survey: Only less than half of adults engage in enough physical activity, staying up late and insufficient sleep have become more common. THL press release, 26 October 2023

Healthy Finland Survey: One in five adults have had to compromise on food, medicines or doctor’s appointments because of lack of money. THL press release, 5 October 2023

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