Examining an Unusual Data Set on Retirement and Longevity

It is the common wisdom that retirement from active work speeds the process of decline - and there are all sorts of reasonable explanations as to why this might be the case, but insofar as actual supporting evidence goes you're not going to find much of a consensus. That said, here is an unusual paper amongst those in search of a correlation between retirement and a shorter remaining life span: "Mortality hazard and length of time until death are widely used as health outcome measures and are themselves of fundamental demographic interest. Considerable research has asked whether labor force retirement reduces subsequent health and its mortality measures. Previous studies have reported positive, negative, and null effects of retirement on subsequent longevity and mortality hazard, but inconsistent findings are difficult to resolve because (1) nearly all data confound retirement with unemployment of older workers, and often, (2) endogeneity bias is rarely addressed analytically. To avoid these problems, albeit at loss of generalizability to the entire labor force, I examine data from an exceptional subgroup that is of interest in its own right: U.S. Supreme Court justices of 1801-2006. Using discrete-time event history methods, I estimate retirement effects on mortality hazard and years-left-alive. ... Estimates by all these methods are consistent with the hypothesis that, on average, retirement decreases health, as indicated by elevated mortality hazard and diminished years-left-alive. These findings may apply to other occupational groups characterized by high levels of work autonomy, job satisfaction, and financial security."

Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21948108


Radical life extension or not I will keep working regardless because we are mean't to have goals and objectives. I saw a dramatic decline in my fathers congnitive abilities between retirement at 62 and his death at 79 (not helped by cutting trees in tempratures -5c on the day he had his heart attack!) the fact was that at 60 he could perform complex calculations in his head but by 64 that was no longer possible. From a physical perspective he was pretty much the same at 64 as at 60 because he continued playing sports and slaving away in the back yard. The use it or lose it holds true as far as I see it because the only significant cause for the change in my fathers mental abilities was his retirement.

Posted by: John Andersen at October 10th, 2011 1:05 PM

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