Older woman at computer

Research

The Secret to Longer Life: Keep Working

If having an adequate income in retirement won’t persuade you to delay that retirement date by a year or two, try this argument: you’ll live longer.

A new study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found strong evidence that older workers who retire even one year later have lower mortality rates.  This held true for both healthy and unhealthy people.

The researchers at Oregon State and Colorado State used a survey of older workers to follow some 3,000 people who were employed in 1992 but had retired by 2010.  Since health drives mortality and is a factor in deciding when to retire, they separated their research subjects into two groups – healthy and unhealthy – to see if they had different results.

The healthy people were more likely to be physically active, non-smokers with a lower body mass index and fewer chronic medical conditions.  Other research has shown that having meaningful work can also contribute to health at older ages.

Over the period of the study, one in four unhealthy retirees died, compared with just about one in 10 healthy people. But the survival odds improved for people in both groups who retired after age 65, reducing the risk of healthy people dying by 11 percent and unhealthy people by 9 percent for each year of delay.

These general results aren’t necessarily true of every individual worker: some people are in such stressful or physically demanding jobs that retirement might be good for their health. Further, the reasons behind the health benefits of a longer working life are not fully understood.

But the researchers have some suggestions.  Working provides people with “substantial financial, psychosocial and cognitive resources” to draw upon, while retirement can create stress, anxiety and even depression, especially in countries “where work is highly valued,” they said.

The upshot, they conclude: policies that promote working longer might be good for older Americans’ health.

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6 Responses to The Secret to Longer Life: Keep Working

  1. Zaria Papa says:

    I strongly believe that older people who retire late feel useful to their family and community. Their will to provide helps them maintain a healthier lifestyle.

    Of course there are those jobs that are so stressful that individuals need to retire. The statistics are very interesting. Thank you so much for this wonderful post. Highly appreciated.

  2. Alberto says:

    Nonsense propaganda! They keep trying to convince people to work longer because it benefits the money service industry and politics. The reality is the longer you work the less you collect.

  3. Ellis says:

    Did the survey take into account that some people may have retired early because they were not well? If that were the case, those people would have higher illness and mortality rates.

    • Steve says:

      I have the same question. This article says they divided the subjects into “healthy” and “unhealthy” groups, but a boolean (true/false) is hardly a robust model of individuals’ medical status.

  4. Ken says:

    My first thought is seeing the title, was “should I have kept working?” Followed quickly by the observation that people that have compromised health may have to or choose to retire early. I am 62 and have been happily retired for 4 years. I do less but I enjoy my days more as I have control. While not overly stressful, my working career did have a continuation of deadlines and changing priorities. While I may have lived longer if I worked to 65, I am doubtful I would be able to make up for the 7 years of retirement years before 65.

  5. John says:

    I wonder if working longer makes people live longer for one or both of these reasons:

    (a) by working longer, savings grow bigger and the pension pot bigger, meaning that when in retirement, the retiree is in need for nothing, so less stressed, and/or

    (b) by working longer, the mind and body are forced to focus on staying well and healthy in order to be productive, whereas retirement might cause the undisciplined to go to seed?