Working after retirement age linked to better physical and mental health – job dependent

In a new study published in BMC Public HealthResearchers have found that working later in life can be beneficial for some, but adversely affect those in high-demand or low-paying jobs.

Research shows that compared to involuntary unemployment, work is good for mental health; however, there is little work related to mental and physical health outcomes for individuals working beyond retirement age.

Researchers Susan Baxter and colleagues examined the health outcomes of individuals over the age of 64 and evaluated the effectiveness of interventions designed to optimize healthy long-term work. The researchers analyzed 9 documents from individuals who were employed after retirement age (over 64).

Results of the analyzes of the 9 studies show that 5 of the studies found a positive effect for people working through retirement age, 2 studies a neutral effect and 2 studies no adverse effects. Baxter and colleagues found that men’s health outcomes were about 14% better when they worked past retirement age; however, these benefits were found to expire after 6 years of retirement.

Some studies reviewed by Baxter and colleagues found that working part-time in old age is correlated with positive health outcomes. For example, one study found that older individuals who worked after age 62 were less likely to be depressed or have sleep disturbances, but these results were not significant. After fully adjusting the results, a study found that older women in the UK who worked manual jobs were more likely to have higher depression scores, while women who worked professional occupations were not as negatively affected.

Baxter and colleagues also found that older men who worked were less likely to require long-term care, but experienced a decrease in daily activities. Older women who worked were less likely to require long-term care and were less likely to experience a decrease in daily activities.

In general, both retired and working older women had more physical problems with functioning than men. The reviewed study from the United States found increased positive physical outcomes for older individuals in medium-paying jobs, compared to low-pay jobs. One study found a positive quality of life outcome for older individuals who worked to stay active and for pleasure, but not for those who worked for financial reasons.

The evaluation of an intervention designed to facilitate a desired work-life balance showed that individuals with low workability benefited from the intervention and had a heightened perception of being able to do their job. A cohort study from a European dataset showed that, apart from older individuals with depression, retirees and older workers experienced no change in health outcomes by participating in sports and social clubs.

Baxter and colleagues argue that, despite some inconsistencies in the studies reviewed, there appears to be more support for positive and neutral outcomes in mental and physical health for individuals working past retirement age. These outcomes seem to be more common in men, those who work part-time, and those who have jobs that are of higher quality and pay. Baxter and colleagues suggest that health differences may not be the only explanation for the positive effects of working later in life.

Baxter and colleagues note that one limitation of their work is that they do not include retirees under the age of 64. Also, studies written only in English were used, possibly excluding other relevant work. Finally, Baxter and colleagues did not include studies that focused on the effects of retirement.

The study ‘Is working later in life good for your health? A Systematic Review of Health Outcomes Due to Longer Working Life,” was written by Susan Baxter, Lindsay Blank, Anna Cantrell and Elizabeth Goyder.

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