Retiring Later May Help You Live Longer, Suggests (Bummer) Study

If you are already thinking about how nice it would be to drive a luxury RV down to Boca Raton where you can play bingo and wear Bermuda shorts erry damn day, you might want to slow your role. Findings published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health,suggest that retiring later may help you live longer. The study found that those who continued working past the age of 65 had a lower all-cause mortality risk than those who chose retire at that age. Sorry folks — the nine to five grind never ends!

Data from 2,956 people collected over 18 years as part of the long-term Healthy Retirement Study, supported by the National Institute on Aging in America and University of Michigan, was analyzed by researchers from Oregon State University. To specifically look at how retirement may influence longevity, the researchers only used data from participants who were working in the year 1992 but had retired completely by 2010.

In order to account for bias, people were assigned to "healthy" (two-thirds participants) and "not healthy" (one-third) groups based on whether they reported that poor health contributed to their decision to quit. Researchers found that in the span of nearly two decades, over half the participants chose to retire before the age of 65, approximately one third of the retirees had stopped working at 66 or over, and 12 percent left work at the age of exactly 65.

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Overall, 12.1 percent of the healthy group and 25.6 percent of the unhealthy group passed away during the course of the study. After accounting for lifestyle, financial, and educational differences in the healthy group, researchers determined that those who worked even for one additional year after turning 65 stood to gain an 11 percent lower "all-cause mortality risk". And the mortality risk continued to decreased the longer a person stayed in their job. Retiring at 67 was associated with a 21 percent lower risk, retiring at 70 saw risk decreased by 44 percent, and working till age 72 lowered all-cause mortality risk to by 56 percent compared to those who stopped work at 65 years old. Co-author Associate Professor Robert Stawski said in a press statement, “The healthy group is generally more advantaged in terms of education, wealth, health behaviors and lifestyle, but taking all of those issues into account, the pattern still remained. The findings seem to indicate that people who remain active and engaged gain a benefit from that.”

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It may not apply to everybody, but we think work brings people a lot of economic and social benefits that could impact the length of their lives,” Chenkai Wu, the study's lead author, said in a press release by Oregon State University. But it wasn't just the healthy retirees that saw benefits — the unhealthy group had a nine percent lower risk retiring at age 66 compared to age 65, while working all the way to age 72 lowered their risk of all cause mortality by 48 percent.

The analysis of this data could have major impacts on pushing the average age that the older work force chooses to retire (it is currently 62). The amount of years one works could prove to be as much of a health factor as staying active or healthy eating. Some studies conversely show that retirement leads to a greater enjoyment of life and reduction of stress which should enhance longevity, points out New York Magazine . But it will take many more years of intensive research before we are fully able to determine whether age of retirement and longevity are closely linked. As Stawski says, "This is just the tip of the iceberg."

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