CARP News Articles
Early 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 excellent.
“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 careers.”