This study compared perceived work ability and job demands in 1981 and 1996. Two samples of municipal workers were formed by matching according to location (eastern Finland), occupational status (white- and blue-collar jobs), gender (men), and age (> or = 45 years). In 1981, 50 white-collar (mean age 51 [SD 3] years) and 214 blue-collar (mean age 51 [SD 4] years) workers responded. In 1996, the ... [Show full abstract] corresponding numbers were 43 and 54, respectively, the mean age being 50 [SD 4] years for both groups. Perceived work ability and psychological resources changed very little from 1981 to 1996, but there seemed to be a trend towards a more positive view of future work ability. General and mental job demands, in particular, seemed to be increasing among white-collar workers. The observed differences in work ability and job demands were systematically more positive among blue-collar workers than among the white-collar workers.