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Ingleside at Rock Creek Blog

IRC Blog
Posted: Monday, May 2, 2016

Work longer, live longer, a new study shows

Research has shown that volunteer work makes people happier and healthier. A recent study at Oregon State University now has found that working past age 65 may lead to a longer life. 

Lead researcher Chenkai Wu, who conducted the study as part of his master’s thesis, found that most research in this area has focused on the economic impacts of delaying retirement. Wu decided to take a look at the health impacts. 

He examined information collected from 1992 to 2010 through the Healthy Retirement Study, a long-term project focusing on U.S. adults. Nearly 3,000 people who joined the study when it began in 1992 had retired by the time it ended. 

Wu’s team looked at two groups of retirees, those who said that health was a factor that caused them to retire, and those who said health was not a factor. About two-thirds of the group belonged to the healthy category. 

Studying the data, the team found that retirees who worked a year past the traditional retirement age had a reduced mortality risk compared with the others, regardless of their health status. The healthy retirees had an 11 percent lower risk of mortality, and even the unhealthy retirees had a 9 percent lower mortality risk. 

“We think work brings people a lot of economic and social benefits that could impact the length of their lives,” Wu said. 

Wu became interested in the effects of retirement on health partly because of China’s controversial move to raise the mandatory retirement age. Men and women who work in labor-intensive fields are required to retire at 60 and 50, respectively, while men and women with white-collar jobs must stop working at 65 and 55, respectively. The Chinese government said it would release a new retirement plan in 2017 that would call for gradually increasing the mandatory retirement ages for everyone. 

Wu knew that retirement age also is a subject of debate in the United States and other countries around the world.

The study researchers recognized that people in the healthy group generally were better educated, wealthier and had a healthier lifestyle. But even when they took those advantages into account, the relationship of working longer to reduced mortality risk held up. 

“The findings seem to indicate that people who remain active and engaged gain a benefit from that,” said Prof. Robert Stawski, senior author of an article on the study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.



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