Life Expectancy Is Not Affected By Retirement Age; Overall Health Is Still ‘Primary Determining Factor’

old age
Researchers have concluded that retirement age and life expectancy do not work at all in tandem, despite conventional wisdom suggesting otherwise. Sharada Prasad, CC BY 2.0

Despite age-old American custom, migrating to Florida in your 50s and 60s may not necessarily add more years to your life. While you may spend a greater portion of those years playing more rounds of golf or enjoying a thunder shower in the middle of those rounds, researchers from the Australian School of Business have concluded that your retirement age has no impact on your relative life expectancy.

Instead, the team of researchers concluded that overall health remained the greatest predictor of life expectancy. Previous studies suggesting an individual’s retirement age and life expectancy have direct relationships with one another merely overcompensated for the person’s health influencing his or her decision.

“While it is tempting to link retirement to life expectancy, the reality is that health status is the primary determining factor in when we die,” Professor John Piggott, economics professor at the Australian School of Business, told the Daily Mail. “Health influences both the timing of retirement and when we die which has sometimes caused confusion in earlier studies.”

However, the team did find people who were forced to stop working, either because of company downsizing or closures, experienced a strong correlation to reduced age at death.

“When a person’s choice to leave work is removed, this does seem to impact mortality,” said Piggott, whose study is believed to be the most comprehensive to date involving retirement age and life expectancy. Piggott said forced leave attributed to reduced longevity “most probably because of a variety of factors such as depression and loss of social networks.”

Studies that argue life expectancy and retirement age work in tandem do not have a unified stance. Some studies have suggested that retiring later can offset a person’s risk for dementia, as more time spent involved with coworkers and meaningful tasks keeps the brain active, while other studies have shown early retirement keeps a person youthful.

Piggott and his team rejected both stances, opting instead for the more general truth that healthier people live longer. The team’s study looked at population data from the Norwegian government from 1990 to 2010. During the 1990s, a number of companies in Norway reduced their minimum age for pension access from 67 years old to 62. For those people whose companies didn’t adopt the switch, the age stayed at 67. Piggott and his team compared the two groups’ mortality rates against each group’s retirement ages.

The team found no difference in longevity between those who worked through age 67 to those who retired five years earlier — leading them to the conclusion that retirement age and longevity do not bear a correlation.

“In the future,” Piggott told the Telegraph, “if policymakers consider increasing the age of retirement as a way to cope with this rising fiscal burden, our study shows they need not worry about any adverse effect on the mortality rate of the population.”

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