Retiring after 65 may help people live longer

Retiring after age 65 may help people live longer, says a study published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. The risk of dying from any cause over the study period was 11% lower among people who delayed retirement for one year—until age 66—and fell further among people who retired between the ages of 66 and 72, the study found.

Even workers who retired for health reasons had a lower risk of dying, compared with those leaving work at 65.

The benefits of remaining in the workforce occurred irrespective of gender, lifestyle, education, income and occupation, the analysis showed.

Postponing retirement may delay the natural age-related decline in physical, cognitive and mental functioning, reducing the risk of chronic illness, the study suggests. Mandatory retirement in the U.S. was abolished in 1986 except in certain professions, such as airline pilots and judges.

Researchers at Oregon State University analyzed data from 2,956 people who were employed at the start of a larger study in 1992 and fully retired at its conclusion in 2010. Retirement age ranged from 55 to 77 years old. Of the subjects, 33% retired at age 66 or older, 12% at age 65 and 55% before 65. Just over a third cited health reasons for retiring.

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Over approximately 18 years of follow-up, 12.1% of healthy and 25.6% of unhealthy retirees died. Compared with retiring at age 65, workers who retired in good health at age 67 had a 21% lower risk of dying. By age 70, the risk was 44% lower, and at age 72 it was 56% lower.

For workers with health issues, the risk of dying was 9% lower if they retired at age 66, 17% lower at 67, 38% lower at 70 and 48% lower at 72.

Caveat: The analysis only included subjects born between 1931 and 1941.

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