Is Retirement Hazardous To Your Health?

This is Peter Orszag:

Our common perception is that retirement is a time when we can relax and take better care of ourselves after stressful careers. But what if work itself is beneficial to our health, as several recent studies suggest?

The evidence is mixed, but:

Examining the growing educational gradient in life expectancy from 1997 to 2006, Montez and Zajacova focused on white women ages 45 to 84. In addition to differential trends in smoking by education, they concluded that among these women “employment was, in and of itself, an important contributor.” The life expectancy of less-educated women was being shortened by their lower employment rates compared with those of highly educated women.

Comments (18)

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  1. JD says:

    Seems reasonable. People need purpose in their lives, for many that’s work.

    • JD says:

      “The life expectancy of less-educated women was being shortened by their lower employment rates compared with those of highly educated women.”

      Although, this could more closely related to other benefits of education.

  2. Miguel says:

    This is interesting. Did the study take into account decreasing mortality rates of the elderly (people living longer) with modern medicine as a variable?

  3. Tommy says:

    These studies are far from conclusive, but I think that the concept of “retirement” should change a little bit. The concept that one goes to cruise ships and plays golf for potentially two or more decades after retiring is just simply not a viable way for society to function, and much too costly. My ideal is to be able to work with a very flexible schedule while being able to enjoy more time with family and travel for either a mission or simply tourism. This way, I am being productive, but I am not stressing myself in a stressful workplace environment. Most people, however, would like to do away with any type or work completely.

  4. Samir says:

    I think it might be the stark contrast between work and relaxation, because if a person has a lot of strain on their body normally and suddenly they don’t that could play into it.

  5. Nigel says:

    “In addition to differential trends in smoking by education…”

    I don’t how accurate this study can be with this admission. Education means higher quality of life which = healthier lives, which them = longer lives. I am not sure a job has much to do with it, but I could be missing something.

    • Miguel says:

      It could be an important variable, because a lot of scientists have proven that purpose increases life expectancy.

  6. LMB says:

    Those that keep working all their life, at least something really productive and meaningful, seem to live much longer and happier lives. So many retire and just kind of waste away right after retiring from their career.

    • Jeff says:

      I don’t know, going on cruises and playing golf in Cabo, sounds a lot different from wasting away.

      • Tom says:

        I think balance is key. In some cases some of these people retiring with that type of lifestyle receive government funding on top of personal retirements. If not, that is still left only to high-income individuals and not a realistic option for most Americans. Some form of flexible scheduling in the workplace in different industries that caters to people with vast experiences could probably be a cultural shift that helps the company and the older person’s lifestyle. This way we’d be less dependent on retirement accounts and have knowledgeable, seasoned, employees giving their input. Otherwise, even if the elderly wanted to work, in many cases couldn’t because a business will choose a younger and more skilled professional and views it as a black and white scenario.

  7. Tom says:

    We’re far from being able to actually find causalities from lifestyle tendencies that affect our health positively or negatively. We don’t even have an understanding of why or what causes us to get many terminal illnesses. So we’re very far from finding out the precise effects of these more intangible correlations to health. Moreover, in these cases, there is no uniformity, with each case varying from person to person. However, if it causes people to want to be more active and productive in the latter parts of the their lives, then good perhaps, but we should still find a balance. I don’t want to be overextending myself and stressing my body when I’m 75 years old, but I do want to be productive and contribute to society in some way.

  8. John Fembup says:

    So . . . little by little, let’s build a case that life after age 65 is not worth living, eventually demonstrating in fact that old age a waste of time and public resources.

    Our legislators and bureaucrats can then step in to ensure that seniors won’t continue to waste their time – or our public resources.

    O brave new world than hath such people in’t.

  9. Richard says:

    Mind you, one simple reason may be exposure to other people.

    If you are retired for long periods of time, and a health problem occurs at home (say, a heart attack), how long is it until someone sees this?

    If you are at work, the recognition may come much more quickly.

    In conjunction with a whole host of other factors.

  10. Buster says:

    I’ve heard the paradox that people tend to have a fixed number of years after they retire before they die.

    1) It may be that people tend to wait until they’ve reached a certain level of declining health to retire (i.e. people retire when they’re too sick to work).

    2) It could be that purposeful work is beneficial.

    3) It might even be that people, when they have time on their hands, resort of all manner of detrimental activities such as overeating, smoking and drinking to excess.

    If I were to venture a guess, I’d say that it is probably all the above!

  11. Floccina says:

    A significant portion of the population cannot resist the temptation to drink all day when they do not have a job to go to.