The Health Benefits of Early Retirement Up for Debate

Just as erratic shifts in weather can take us from sunny and mild to blasted with snow and bitter temperatures within days, sometimes hours, research is constantly providing new information that changes our perspective on work, retirement, relationships, aging and health.

The Oldish recently reported on a study that found men who retired early were more likely to lead an unhealthy lifestyle, resulting in a shortened lifespan.  And now there’s more research that concludes the opposite may be true, but it really depends on the kind of work you were involved with and whether it was stressful and unhealthy or provided positive social interaction, purpose or physical activity.   A healthy retirement can add years to your life but if retirement causes an older adult to suddenly become sedentary, eat and drink too much or withdraw socially, it will have a negative effect, especially for single men.  Women tend to fare better with regards to using their new-found leisure time for volunteer work, regular exercise or to practice better eating habits. 

A 2017 Dutch study, published in the journal Health Economics, explores the impact of early retirement on mortality among civil servants who qualified for early retirement.  Men (there were too few eligible women to include in the study) who took an early retirement were found to be 2.6 per cent less likely to die in the following five years than those who did not retire early.

Researchers around the world agree that retirement can improve health; retirees with more free time often eat a healthier diet, get more regular exercise, experience less stress and may finally stop smoking.  How older adults approach retirement is key in whether it brings joy, fulfillment and time for self care or leads to a more sedentary lifestyle, depression or less physical activity.  With retirement ages steadily increasing, it’s important to start early to plan for a healthy and active retirement and ensure you will have the financial means to enjoy life beyond paid work.

To read the full Dutch research article follow this link to the Wiley Digital Archives.