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Published: February 23, 2010
 / Spring 2010 / Issue 58

 
 

Retirement May Be Bad for Your Health

Retirees who transition into temporary employment have better everyday health and experience fewer major illnesses than those who quit work entirely.

Title: Bridge Employment and Retirees’ Health: A Longitudinal Investigation (PDF)
Authors: Yujie Zhan (University of Maryland) et al.
Publisher: Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, vol. 14, no. 4
Date Published: October 2009

Can retirement be bad for your health? It depends on how you retire, says this study. As more people rethink their post-retirement plans in a troubled economy, the authors argue that retirees who move from full-time work into a temporary or part-time job or self-employment remain in better health and suffer fewer major diseases than people who quit working completely. The researchers reached their conclusion by examining data on more than 12,000 people in their 50s and 60s who participated in the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, which was sponsored by the U.S. government’s National Institute on Aging.

Beginning in 1992, the participants were interviewed for as long as two hours about their health, employment history, finances, and work or retirement lifestyle every other year during a six-year period. The researchers controlled for a variety of factors, including baseline physical and mental health and participants’ age, sex, education level, and wealth. (Only physician-diagnosed health issues were considered, such as cancer, heart and lung disease, diabetes, stroke, and psychiatric disorders.) The results revealed not only that retirees who continued to work in some capacity experienced fewer major illnesses than those who didn’t, but also that people who took post-retirement jobs related to their previous careers had better mental health than career changers; the authors believe that is because retirees who enter new fields experience more stress as they adapt to different work environments and job expectations.

Bottom Line: Retirees who transition into temporary employment have better everyday health and experience fewer major illnesses than those who quit work entirely. Getting a post-retirement job in a related field can even boost mental health.   

Author Profile:

  • Matt Palmquist was a founding staff writer and is currently a contributing editor at Miller-McCune magazine. Formerly, he was an award-winning feature writer for the San Francisco–based SF Weekly.

 

 
 
 
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