Early Retirees Might Want to Think Again

Related articles

shutterstock_271267736 Happy Retirement via Shutterstock

Ah, retirement — time to play golf, play with grandkids, travel, and do whatever you've been putting off because of work-related issues. The sooner the better, right? Well, although some studies have indicated that there can be health benefits to retiring, not all research is on the same page, according to a recently published report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Investigators led by Dr. Chenkal Wu from the Oregon State University in Corvallis, followed nearly 3,000 individuals who had been working in 1992, and then completely retired from their jobs between 1992 and 2010. Of these people, over 1,900 reported that health issues were not the reason they retired. The rest indicated at least one health problem led them to retire.

During the followup period, 234 self-defined healthy people and 262 unhealthy retirees died. On the basis of their analysis, the researchers found that among the healthy retirees, a one-year older age at retirement was independently associated with an 11 percent decreased risk of death from all causes. Thus, they concluded, "Early retirement may be a risk factor for mortality and prolonged working life may provide survival benefits among US adults."

On the other hand, a recent large (over 25,000 individuals) Australian study found that retirees:

  • Increased physical activity by 93 minutes a week
  • Decreased sedentary time by 67 minutes per day
  • Increased sleep by 11 minutes per day
  • 50 percent of female smokers stopped smoking

Obviously, all these changes should have positive impacts on retirees' health. But this study didn't focus on mortality, so whether such changes are great enough to impact risk of death can't be assessed.

So what's the answer? Will retirement lead to a shorter life, or will the behavioral changes seen in the Australian study have a beneficial impact? Or do Americans and Australians differ in their response to quitting work? Only more research can provide the answer.