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Self-employment and Health after Age 50

Research into self-employment in older people.

About the research project

Older workers in the UK are disproportionately self-employed. Policymakers increasingly see this form of employment as a potential path to health and wellbeing at work.

Wellbeing matters and self-employment can offer more control and autonomy over employment in older age. This is seen as having potential health and wellbeing benefits.

Statistics suggest that self-employment is relatively common amongst older people. But little research is conducted to explore the experiences of this group.

Diversity of self employment

One under-appreciated aspect is the sheer diversity of self-employment in older age, which ranges from work within the gig economy to highly paid consultancy. Little is known about how pathways into self-employment influence health and wellbeing in older age.

The research on this topic is being conducted by researchers from:

  • Newcastle University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • VU Amsterdam

It is part of the broader project ‘Supporting Healthy Ageing at Work’, led by Prof Wendy Loretto from the University of Edinburgh.

Areas explored by the research

Qualitative interviews have been conducted with a diverse sample of 40 self-employed people over the age of 50 in the UK. Each interview lasted around an hour and a half, and placed their work in the context of their life histories. Interviews explored a variety of topics, including:

  • individuals’ pathways into self-employment
  • what their work entailed, what they thought about it, and the impact on their health and well-being (including financial and caring aspects)
  • less ‘visible’ health issues, including the menopause and cognitive health
Research team
  • Dr David Lain – Newcastle University
  • Dr Jakov Jandric – Newcastle University, now University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Mariska van der Horst – Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

For further information, please contact David Lain:


The funder for the project was:

  • UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge


  • 2021-23

You can find further information about the broader project at the Supporting Healthy Ageing at Work (SHAW) website.