Working in older age may lead to longer life, study says
CORVALLIS, Ore., April 28 (UPI) -- Although many people retire because of poor health, a new study suggests working later in life, even in spite of poor health, may lower the risk of death from any cause.
Regardless of health status, people who retired at least one year after age 65 had a lower risk of death, researchers at Oregon State University found in a large study of adults.
The effects of retirement are often considered from a financial standpoint, leading researchers to consider how retirement affects health once one stops working.
Other studies have shown the importance of activity -- exercise, socialization or continuing to work -- to maintaining cognitive and physical ability.
Caring for health problems, such as needing hearing aids to enable socialization, to keep the brain and body moving has been shown to prevent disease and slow natural aging, of which cognitive declines are considered to be a part.
The researchers report many people who continued to work were in better shape in many ways that can also affect their length of life, but continuing to work has the potential to benefit everybody, they said.
"The healthy group is generally more advantaged in terms of education, wealth, health behaviors and lifestyle, but taking all of those issues into account, the pattern still remained," Dr. Robert Stawski, an associate professor at Oregon State University, said in a press release. "The findings seem to indicate that people who remain active and engaged gain a benefit from that."
For the study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, researchers analyzed data on 2,956 people who were working in 1992 and retired sometime before 2010, with healthy people referred to as those who said health status did not affect their decision to retire.
During the eight-year follow-up period, 234 healthy and 262 unhealthy retirees died, or 12 percent and 25.6 percent of each group.
Among the healthy group, those who worked one year past age 65, the standard age for retirement in the United States, had an 11 percent lower risk of death from any cause, and unhealthy retirees who worked an extra year had a 9 percent lower risk of death from any cause.
"It may not apply to everybody, but we think work brings people a lot of economic and social benefits that could impact the length of their lives," said Chenkai Wu, a doctoral student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University.