First Advisor

Donald M. Truxillo

Date of Publication

Spring 6-4-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






Age discrimination in employment, Performance standards -- Public opinion, Age and employment, Older people -- Employment



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 287 pages)


As the workforce ages, enabling individuals to work effectively across the lifespan is critical for individuals, organizations, and societies. Put simply, societies and organizations are beginning to face a "new normal" in which people must continue working later in life. Investigations of work ability (WA), an individual's ability to meet the demands of their job, is a line of research that facilitates our understanding of the factors related to working successfully across the lifespan. Although research has established that WA is influenced by a range of organizational and personal factors and linked WA to retirement and disability, a number of gaps and underlying conceptual issues have limited the value of the WA research to the organizational sciences.

Through a series of three studies -- a meta-analysis (Study 1a) with k = 247 studies and N = 312,987 individuals, a supplemental online data collection (Study 1b), a nurse sample (Study 2), and a healthcare sample (Study 3) -- this dissertation draws on the JD-R model to move the WA literature forward and advance WA theory within the organizational science literature. Study 1 provides a quantitative synthesis of the WA literature, establishes its nomological network, and provides a straightforward conceptual definition of WA. This synthesis provides a roadmap for researchers and practitioners by highlighting leverage points to promote WA across the lifespan. Second, these studies answer lingering questions regarding the concept of WA. In doing so, these studies provide a clear conceptual distinction between WA as measured by the Work Ability Index (WAI), which includes health-based questions, and measures of perceived WA (PWA), which are perceptions of WA as rated by individual. PWA measures performed similarly to the WAI in the vast majority of analyses, lending substantial support to the use of relatively simple PWA measures. Third, Study 1 and Study 2 provide evidence that PWA explains unique variance in organizational (e.g., engagement, burnout) and personal (e.g., disability intentions, health) correlates above and beyond the established constructs of perceived fit, general self-efficacy, and job self-efficacy. Fourth, Study 2 identified age discrimination as an important yet understudied antecedent of WA and showed that PWA can serve as a mediator between age discrimination and negative outcomes (e.g., lower life satisfaction and task performance). Finally, Study 3 showed that PWA is related to supervisor ratings of task and creative performance. Taken together, these three studies situate WA within the organizational literature and provide substantial evidence of the value of WA for meeting the challenges of an aging and age-diverse workforce.


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