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Life Health > Health Insurance

Can working longer make you live longer?

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Could a longer career lengthen lifespan?

Depending on whom you ask, working longer can make you live longer. Or maybe it just feels that way — and retiring early is the true key to a longer life.

According to a new study from Oregon State University, staying on the job past the age of 65 could increase a person’s lifespan, while early retirement can increase the risk of dying early.

OSU researchers found that healthy adults who retired one year past age 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes, even when taking into account demographic, lifestyle, and health issues.

Adults who described themselves as unhealthy were also likely to live longer if they kept working, the findings showed, which indicates that factors beyond health may affect post-retirement mortality.

Yet just a couple of years ago another study — done by the Tinbergen Institute at VU University Amsterdam — found the opposite: that retiring early reduced a man’s risk of dying within five years by 42.3 percent.

The new study, published recently in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, examined data collected from 1992 through 2010 through the Healthy Retirement Study, a long-term study of U.S. adults led by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Aging.

After narrowing the field of retiree data it examined, it attempted to control for poor versus good health among study subjects, dividing them into unhealthy retirees and healthy retirees, and found that during the study period, about 12 percent of the healthy and 25.6 percent of the unhealthy retirees died.

Healthy retirees who worked a year longer had an 11 percent lower risk of mortality, while unhealthy retirees who worked a year longer had a 9 percent lower mortality risk. Working a year longer had a positive impact on the study participants’ mortality rate regardless of their health status.

Of course, maybe it depends on where you live and what your retirement benefits are. The other study looked at the effects of a policy change that went into effect in the Netherlands in 2004, where certain age groups of civil servants were offered the opportunity to retire as early as age 55.

And the Dutch pension system has three parts: a public old-age pension, which is financed on a pay-as-you-go basis; occupational pensions; and private provisions.

The Dutch study theorized that one main reason for the extended life after retirement was the removal of stress-related factors associated with demanding work.

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