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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 October 2005, 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK
Early retirers don't live longer
Image of an elderly woman
Retiring early will not guarantee years to enjoy a work-free life
Researchers have disproved the theory that people who take early retirement enjoy longer lives as a result.

In fact, those who stop working at 55 have nearly double the death rate of those who continue to work on until they reach 65, a study suggests.

The work, published in the British Medical Journal, involved over 3,500 employees of the petrochemical industry who retired at 55, 60, and 65.

Poorer health forcing some to retire early may be a factor, say the authors.

Longevity clues

However, this would not entirely explain the differences they found, neither would factors such as sex and socioeconomic status.

Men were far more likely to die at a younger age than women, as were those on lower incomes compared to those with the highest incomes, but after controlling for this the researchers still found a big survival gap between the different retirement ages.

Sudden retirement may not be the honeymoon we expect it to be
Baroness Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre UK

The Shell Health Services researchers excluded the first 10 years of survival for those retiring at 55, and the first five years for those retiring at 60, to make for a fair comparison with those who carried on working to 65.

The employees who retired at 55 had a significantly increased mortality compared with those who retired at 65.

In contrast, employees who retired at 60 had a similar survival rate to those who retired at 65.

The study's publication is timely, given the increasing concern over the ever-growing ageing population in more affluent countries like the UK and the strain this could put on the economy.

Ageing population

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of people of state pensionable age is projected to increase by 9.3% from 11.1 million in 2004 to 12.2 million in 2010, and to 15.3 million by 2031.

Baroness Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre UK, said the findings added to the growing consensus that greater social engagement and involvement is key to improving the health of older people.

"Work is a huge part of this equation, and provides mental and physical activity, self-esteem, social interaction and income for many of us.

"Sudden retirement may not be the honeymoon we expect it to be.

"The key is greater choice for older people - meaning legislation to back up those who want to work on, whether part or full-time, and initiatives to encourage greater social participation for those who do not."

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said: "At a time when life expectancy is increasing, with those in their 40s and 50s now predicted to live into their 90s, many older people may want the choice to work for longer or work flexibly as they approach retirement.

"This gives older people the opportunity to build up a decent retirement income, to use existing or new skills, to help maintain a sense of self esteem and to have social contact.

"After stopping work, it is vital for older people to stay mentally and physically active to enjoy a fulfilling retirement."




SEE ALSO:
Can money buy health in old age?
11 Apr 05 |  Northern Ireland
NHS staff may have to work to 65
10 Jan 05 |  Business


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