A new a report in the Journal of Occupational Health and Psychology reveals evidence that working part-time in retirement can improve health. Retirees who remained in the workforce but reduced their hours reported fewer major health problems while remaining self-sufficient longer than retirees who stopped working entirely.

Retirees who saw health benefits by working longer held part-time jobs, took temporary positions or became self-employed. Researchers involved in the study attributed this health benefit to the physical and mental activities and social contact associated with the workplace.

According to Kenneth Shultz, a coauthor of the report, “Choosing a suitable type of bridge employment will help retirees transition better into full retirement and in good physical and mental health.”

The study followed 12,189 Americans between the ages of 51 and 61, collecting data on them every other year between 1992 and 1998. Researchers looked at high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke and psychiatric problems/mental health.

The health benefits of part-time work were significant but were only found when retirees took jobs related to their pre-retirement career. The health of retirees who took jobs in new careers did not benefit from work, perhaps because such retirees were under financial stress. “Rather than wanting to work in a different field, they may have to work,” said study coauthor Mo Wang. “In such situations, it’s difficult for retirees to enjoy the benefits that come with bridge employment.”