Page last updated at 17:43 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 18:43 UK

Complete retirement 'bad for you'

Older man
Keeping active after retirement may boost health

Giving up work completely on retirement could be bad for your health, US research suggests.

The study of 12,189 people found retirees who take on temporary or part-time work have fewer major diseases, and function better day to day.

The findings were significant even after considering people's physical and mental health before retirement.

The University of Maryland study appears in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

The researchers examined data on 12,189 people, who were aged 51-61 at the beginning of the study.

All the evidence suggests that if your mental wellbeing is depleted it will affect you physically
Professor Cary Cooper
University of Lancaster

The participants were interviewed every two years over a six-year period beginning in 1992 about their health, finances, employment history and work or retirement life.

The researchers registered only medical conditions which had been clinically diagnosed, and took account of factors such as sex, education level and financial wealth.

Mental health

The participants also completed a basic mental health questionnaire.

The findings showed that people who took on post-retirement jobs that were related to their previous careers reported better mental health than those who fully retired.

However, no similar boost to mental health was found in people who worked in jobs outside their career speciality after retirement.

The researchers believe this may be because retirees who take jobs not related to their career field may need to adapt to a different work environment and, therefore, become more stressed.

Also, the results showed that retirees with financial problems were more likely to work in a different field after they officially retire.

Temporary or part-time work after retirement was defined as bridge work.

Researcher Dr Mo Wang said: "Rather than wanting to work in a different field, they may have to work.

"In such situations, it's difficult for retirees to enjoy the benefits that come with bridge employment."

The researchers suggest that, when possible, retirees carefully consider their choice of post-retirement employment.

Dr Kenneth Shultz, who also worked on the study, said: "Choosing a suitable type of bridge employment will help retirees transition better into full retirement and in good physical and mental health."

Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational health psychologist at the University of Lancaster, said: "All the evidence suggests that if your mental wellbeing is depleted it will affect you physically.

"Conversely, if you are more positive mentally you are going to be much more robust and active.

"And if you continue working after retirement often your status remains similar to that you experienced during your career, and as a result your self-esteem and sense of wellbeing will be enhanced."

However, Professor Cooper said that sometimes making a clean break from a stressful job could be a good thing.

In that instance, he said, the key was to ensure that you had hobbies to keep you active.

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