Should you need another arrow in your quiver of arguments for why clients should retire later rather than sooner, here’s one from a longintudinal study whose findings were published in March in the international Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (abstract is here; payment required for full report).
The stated aim of the research was to “examine the association between retirement age and mortality among healthy and unhealthy retirees and to investigate whether sociodemographic factors modified this association.” It turns out there was an association. Among nearly 3,000 Americans who were followed over 18 years, it turned out that among healthy retirees, there was an 11% lower risk of all-cause mortality for those who were at least one year older at retirement. But even among unhealthy retirees, there was a lower death risk when they retired later.
That was the case, the researchers found, “independent of a wide range of sociodemographic, lifestyle and health confounders.” (What’s a confounder? It’s essentially a third variable that may be responsible for a correlation between two other variables. So people who work longer tend to live longer. Great. But is there another variable that confounds that correlation? The researchers looked and didn’t find any. For all you non-statistics persons out there, please see this sidebar.)
The deadpan conclusion of the researchers? “Early retirement may be a risk factor for mortality, and prolonged working life may provide survival benefits among U.S. adults.”
The paper first looks at prior research seeking a link between retirement age and longevity and concludes there is no such consensus (some studies showed greater longevity among early retirees, others just the opposite). Lead researcher Chenkai Wu and colleagues were also cognizant of another big issue when looking at retirement and death: the “healthy worker bias.”
That is the statistical bias arising when a worker retires early because of poor health, which may increase the death rates for said retirees, or in the paper’s words, poor health is a “a well-established risk factor for mortality.” So the researchers only followed participants in a broader longitudinal study who said their health had “no impact on their decision to retire.”
That netted the 2,956 survey participants, 1,934 who were healthy and 1,022 who were unhealthy. Over an average follow-up period of 16.9 years, 234 (12.1%) healthy and 262 (25.6%) unhealthy retirees died.