Washington: Working past the age of 65 could lead to longer life, according to a new study which suggests that retiring early may be a risk factor for dying earlier.
Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) in the US found that healthy adults who retired one year past age 65 had an 11 per cent lower risk of death from all causes, even when taking into account demographic, lifestyle and health issues.
Adults who described themselves as unhealthy were also likely to live longer if they kept working, the findings showed, which indicates that factors beyond health may affect post-retirement mortality.
“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,” said Chenkai Wu from OSU.
“Most research in this area has focused on the economic impacts of delaying retirement. I thought it might be good to look at the health impacts,” Wu said.
Wu examined data collected from 1992 to 2010 through the Healthy Retirement Study, a long-term study of US adults. Of the more than 12,000 initial participants in the study, Wu narrowed his focus to 2,956 people who began the study in 1992 and had retired by the end of the study period in 2010.
Poor health is one reason people retire early and also can lead to earlier death, so researchers wanted to find a way to mitigate a potential bias in that regard.
To do so, they divided the group into unhealthy retirees, or those who indicated that health was a factor in their decision to retire – and healthy retirees, who indicated health was not a factor.
About two-thirds of the group fell into the healthy category, while a third were in the unhealthy category, researchers said.
During the study period, about 12 per cent of the healthy and 25.6 per cent of the unhealthy retirees died. Healthy retirees who worked a year longer had an 11 per cent lower risk of mortality, while unhealthy retirees who worked a year longer had a 9 per cent lower mortality risk, researchers said.
Working a year longer had a positive impact on the study participants’ mortality rate regardless of their health status, they said.
“The healthy group is generally more advantaged in terms of education, wealth, health behaviours and lifestyle, but taking all of those issues into account, the pattern still remained,” said Robert Stawski from OSU.
“The findings seem to indicate that people who remain active and engaged gain a benefit from that,” he said.
The findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.