Is Social Security to blame for so many men dying at 62?

Is the thought of looming retirement and availability of Social Security killing you? Two researchers say yes.

Maria D. Fitzpatrick of Cornell University and Timothy J. Moore of the University of Melbourne said they analyzed the mortality rates in the U.S. and noticed that many older Americans – but disproportionally men who retire at 62 – are affected by sudden increased rates of death.

“A lot happens in our early 60s. Some change jobs, scale back working hours or retire. Our health-care coverage may shift. We may have fewer financial resources, or we may begin collecting Social Security," Fitzpatrick told The Wall Street Journal. “About one-third of Americans immediately claim Social Security at 62. Ten percent of men retire in the month they turn 62.”

The numbers, according to the study, show that there is a two percent increase in male mortality at age 62 in the country. “Over the 34 years we studied, there were an additional 400 to 800 deaths per year beyond what we expected, or an additional 13,000 to 27,000 excess male deaths within 12 months of turning 62,” the professor said.

The researcher blames the increased mortality on the retirement as retirees tend to withdraw from life and no longer see the point in engaging.

“Retirement could have positive long-run benefits for your health because you’re taking better care of yourself. Or it could be that, in the long run, retirement has a negative effect. You can think of how a retiree slowly withdraws from the world because he no longer has any reason to engage,” she told the WSJ.

After all, the retirement brings new risks into life: “If you don’t go to work, you have more hours of the day to be driving around,” the professor said.

“Medical literature suggests when older men are more sedentary, they’re more likely to be at risk for infection. When they lose their jobs, they increase their smoking rate, linked to the types of deaths we see such as COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] or respiratory illness.”

The bottom line, says Fitzpatrick, is that the retirement “may be bad for the health of men, particularly for men who retire at the relatively early age of 62.”

While she is not advising people against not retiring, especially if their health is poor, people should take precautions and commit to fairly active yet stress-free lifestyle.

“Stay healthy, see a physician, don’t just sit on the couch, but don’t overdo it either. Be careful about driving. Just be careful. It is a tricky time,” she said.