Working After Retirement Keeps Seniors Healthy

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People who continue to work after retirement have fewer diseases, fewer functional limitations, and better mental health than people who quit completely, according to a new study. Yujie Zhan and colleagues at the University of Maryland and California State University at San Bernardino published their findings working after retirement and elderly health in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Researchers analyzed data from 12,189 participants in the National Health and Retirement Study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Aging. The study began in 1992 and included men and women between the ages of 51 and 61. They were interviewed every 2 years over a six-year period about health, finances, employment history, work, and retirement life. Also included was information about physical and mental health, age, sex, education level, and total financial wealth.

Part-time work or self-employment after retirement is often called “Bridge Employment”, because it transitions an individual from full-time work into full retirement status.

The researchers found that those who find post-retirement work that is related to their previous occupation report better mental health than those who fully retire. Older workers had more self-esteem and maintained a sense of identity and purpose.

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Physically, those who continue to work after retirement were 17% less likely to be diagnosed with one of eight diseases associated with aging: high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke, psychiatric problems, and arthritis. Post-retirement workers also showed less functional decline, or the ability to perform the activities of daily living such as dressing, eating, and bathing.

Working at least part-time after retirement benefits seniors because of the increased physical and mental activity related to working. The continued social contact is also a likely benefit of working. The retirees also often transitioned better into full retirement when participating in bridge employment.

The study did find some negative outcomes with post-retirement work. Those retirees with financial difficulties often worked in a different field after their official retirement. Those individuals did not show the same mental health improvements as those who worked in occupations related to their previous careers. Mo Yang, one of the study researchers, indicated that those who work in different fields are likely burdened with economic difficulties and stressed from the adaption to a new work environment, and cannot enjoy the physical and mental benefits that come with the bridge employment.

This study affirms findings from a previous study presented at the American Geriatrics Society meeting that found that retirees over 65 who continued work as volunteers had half the risk of death than those who did not.

The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) found in 2008 that 70% of workers ages 45 to 74 said they planned to continue to work into their retirement years.

Yujie Zhan, Mo Wang, Songqi Liu, Kenneth S. Shultz. Bridge Employment and Retirees' Health: A Longitudinal Investigation. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 2009; Vol. 14, No. 4

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Comments

Reading this story I am thinking how much an average American saves for retirement. How much they project to have by retirement age, and what they plan to do with the money when they retire.