In recent years studies have been done to compare health advantages and longevity to retiring early. The results depend on the stress levels of the retiree’s prior job, the activities the retiree chooses to engage in while in retirement as well as the subjects’ overall health and economic status. One study that was addressed in a New York Times article from Jan. 29 looks at male retirees in the Netherlands. The men in this group “were 2.6 percentage points less likely to die over the next five years than those who did not retire early.” In the U.S. it was reported that seven years of retirement significantly reduced the chance of some illnesses by as much as 20 percent. This article by Austin Frakt also mentions that similar outcomes were shown in data from other regions such as the Israel, England, Germany and other European countries. However, many factors can influence the outcomes.
When a worker retires from inactive work such as a desk job, chances of improving health during retirement can be greatly increased since the person will have more time for physical activities such as sports or gardening. But the reverse can also be true if the worker’s job was more active but during retirement a more sedate lifestyle is adopted.
This factor can also work both ways.
If a person eliminates work that involves worry, long hours or handling conflicts with others, retirement can reduce the chances of digestive and heart issues and possibly increase longevity. Retirees often get more sleep as well.
But working usually has a more positive effect on a person’s economic status. Striving to make ends meet on a reduced income can create a different type of stress in an individual. Another lifestyle change worth considering is the elimination of the commute back and forth to work risking motor accidents.
Some of the studies mentioned in this article point to retirement as increasing health problems and a shorter life. For example, retirees who are unmarried, engage in less social interaction or are more inactive during retirement, often had a decline in health. Another factor to consider is what state of health the retiree was in before retirement.
The studies aren’t totally conclusive as to retirement’s health benefit. “It isn’t retirement itself that affects health, but what you do in retirement.”