Retiring from work 'is good for your health'

Benefits of stopping work include more exercise, less stress and better sleep

Jonathan Owen
Monday 24 August 2015 20:05 BST

Retiring from work is good for your health, chiefly due to the benefits of more exercise, less stress, and greater sleep enjoyed by people who stop working, according to a major study being presented tomorrow.

The new research, by Dr Peter Eibich, a health economist at the University of Oxford, reveals that pensioners use their spare time to stay active and healthy.

But Britons wanting to reap the health benefits of retirement face waiting longer than ever before - for the state pension age will rise to 66 in five years’ time, and to 67 by 2028.

The findings, being announced to delegates at the European Economic Association’s annual congress in Mannheim, Germany, tomorrow, draw on data of more than 10,000 households in the German Socio-Economic Panel Study.

In retirement, people are more likely to rate their health as ‘satisfactory’ and their mental health improves, according to the study, which will be published in the Journal of Health Economics next month.

More sleep, with people getting an extra 40 minutes a day in their retirement, along with pensioners being 10 per cent more likely to take regular exercise, are key factors in this. And retired people visit their doctor less often, even after allowing for age-related medical problems and those retired early due to ill-health. “Taking these factors into account, I find that the number of doctor visits is reduced by 25% for retirees compared to non-retirees of the same age,” said Dr Eibich.

“Relief from work-related stress and strain, increased sleep duration as well as more frequent physical exercise seem to be key mechanisms through which retirement affects health,” he states in his paper.

“Retirement also increases time invested in repairs and gardening, and household chores. These activities require a physical effort, and can therefore be expected to enhance health by providing physical activity over and above the increase in sports and exercise,” adds Dr Eibich.

But lengthening waits to get state pensions mean that older workers should make lifestyle changes before retiring, according to the researcher.

“These findings suggest that in times of increasing retirement ages policy makers should consider incentives for older workers to adjust their health behavior, e.g. through part-time work or partial retirement programs,” he concludes.

Commenting on the findings, Caroline Abrahams, charity director, Age UK said: “If you hate your job and can't wait to retire and then you use your extra time in retirement to get and stay fit, you may very well become a lot healthier than you were when you were working. But equally, some people enjoy their jobs and become miserable and depressed when they stop, so their health and wellbeing may get worse rather than better.”

Retirement age to continue to rise

Britons face an ever-increasing wait to retire, with the state pension age for men and women to increase to 66 by the end of this decade. And it will rise to 67 by 2028. The Government is to carry out an independent review of the state pension age in 2017, in a move which is expected to see the state pension age rise further in years to come. People who are in their early 20s today will have to wait until they are at least 70 years old before they can get their pension. And if current life expectancy and mortality rates continue, by the mid-2070s people could have to wait until they are 77 years old before they retire.

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