CARP News Articles
Retirement May be Dangerous to your Health
Article By: James Pasternak
Early retirement might be
dangerous to your health. So say the findings of a recent
study published in the British Medical Journal
Entitled “Age at Retirement
and Long Term Survival of an Industrial Population:
Prospective Cohort Study,” a team of researchers tracked
thousands of employees who worked at Shell Oil. The
investigators found that leaving the workforce at age 55
doubled the risk for death before reaching age 65,
compared with those who kept working beyond age 60.
Subjects who retired early at
55 and who were still alive at 65 had a significantly
higher mortality than those who retired at age 65.
Mortality was also significantly higher for subjects in
the first 10 years after retirement at 55 compared with
those who continued working.
In Canada, industries that
tend to have the lowest median retirement age include
education, public administration, transportation and
warehousing, forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas.
In the study, gender made a
difference. The risk of dying early was 80% greater for
men than for women, the researchers concluded.
The researchers reviewed the
survival outcomes of 839 employees who retired at age 55
and 1,929 employees who worked until age 60 and were still
alive at age 65. These outcomes were compared with 900
employees who retired at 65.
Failing health might have
played a role in the younger retirees' higher mortality,
said Shan P. Tsai, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at Shell
Health Services and one of the authors of the report.
However, data were not
available to assess directly whether poor health was a
significant factor, and it is not clear why continued
employment led to longer life, the researchers wrote.
This is a conundrum taken up
by consulting actuary Malcolm Hamilton of Toronto-based
Mercer Human Resources Consulting Ltd.
“It’s not clear from the study
whether retiring early causes you to die early or quite
the reverse. It could be people who suspect their health
isn’t terribly good - and they are likely to die early -
decide to retire early. It’s not clear which is the
chicken and which is the egg.”
In fact, a Social Development
Canada study released in May 2001 seems to conclude that
health, the age of retirement and life expectancy might be
intrinsically linked. The study concluded that the planned
age of retirement continually increases with the health
status of the individual. Relative to persons in poor
health, the planned age of retirement increases by 2.5
years for persons who report their health as fair, rising
to 3 years for persons who report their health as
“If you look at the
individuals within the groups my guess is you’ll find
every possible variation on a them. You’ll probably find
some people who retired early and for whatever reason [and
died early]” says Hamilton.
“You’ll find another group
that was quite the reverse. They were fed up with working;
discouraged with their job; retired; made themselves fit,
pursued things in which they had a greater interest;
re-discovered their love of life and lived long.”
“Suggesting there’s a
correlation between two things doesn’t go very far to
telling you what’s causing what or what it means. There’s
nothing there to suggest whether bad health causes early
retirement or early retirement causes bad health.”
Speaking anecdotally, Larry
Berdugo, a certified financial planner of Toronto-based
Independent Financial Concepts Group Ltd has found that
early retirement without a road map can lead to malaise,
indifference and reduced life expectancy.
“Some people who retire and do
nothing lose their purpose. If they are not in the
workforce they need some kind of purpose. How much can you
golf? How much can you garden?” asks Berdugo.
“I think its partially
depression. For retirement planning I tell clients that
they are likely to start second, third and fourth