Study: Delaying Retirement Improves Your Health

Retirees who work part-time have better physical and mental health

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Seniors who work part-time during their retirement years may stay healthy longer, suggests a new study released this week. Retirees who remained employed, but reduced their hours, experienced fewer major diseases and were self-sufficient longer than those who abruptly retired.

The physical health benefits of working longer were found among retirees who took part-time jobs, temporary positions, or became self-employed, according to findings reported in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Researchers at the University of Maryland and California State University at San Bernardino say the health benefits of working in retirement are likely to be due to the physical and mental activities people engage in at work as well as social contact, which can be lost when employees drop out of the workforce. “Choosing a suitable type of bridge employment will help retirees transition better into full retirement and in good physical and mental health," says Kenneth Shultz, a psychology professor at California State University at San Bernardino and coauthor of the report.

The researchers analyzed data from 12,189 Americans between the ages of 51 and 61 who were interviewed every two years between 1992 and 1998. Physician-diagnosed health problems considered in the study include high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke, and psychiatric problems. Mental health was also assessed using a questionnaire. The health benefits of a part-time job in retirement were found to be significant, even after controlling for physical and mental health before retirement and for age, sex, education level, and financial wealth.

Mental health, however, was found to improve only when retirees took new jobs related to their previous career. Seniors did not report better mental health on a questionnaire when they worked in jobs outside their original career field after retirement. Retirees pursuing novel second careers may need to adapt to different working conditions, which could be stressful, the researchers report. Seniors with financial difficulties were also more likely to become employed in a new type of work after retirement. “Rather than wanting to work in a different field, they may have to work," says Mo Wang, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Maryland and coauthor of the paper. "In such situations, it's difficult for retirees to enjoy the benefits that come with bridge employment."

For more information, see:

  • 6 Tips for Acing a Job Interview After Age 50
  • Boomers Take a Step Back Down the Career Ladder
  • Internships for Elders

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