17 March 2008

Retirement tied to early death

People looking forward to an early retirement may want to rethink those plans. Research suggests there may be a link between retirement and mortality in apparently healthy people.

People looking forward to an early retirement may want to rethink those plans - new research suggests there may be a connection between retirement and mortality in apparently healthy people.

In a study of nearly 17 000 Greek adults, researchers found that those who were retired at enrolment were 51 percent more likely to die during the study period than their same-age counterparts who were still working.

Among retirees, those who left the workforce at a younger age were at greater risk of dying during the study, the researchers report in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

All of the study participants, who ranged in age from their 20s to 80s, were apparently healthy when they enrolled. None had been diagnosed with a major medical condition like heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

What the study showed
The findings are not explained by poorer health among early retirees, according to the researchers, led by Dr Christina Bamia of the University of Athens. Instead, they speculate, it's possible that something about retirement itself - income loss or a change in lifestyle habits, for example - may have contributed to earlier death in some cases.

The study included 16 827 adults – 7 119 were men and 5 834 were women - who were followed for 7.7 years. During that time, 619 study participants died. This included 404 deaths among the 3 874 retirees and 215 deaths among the 12 953 who were employed at study enrolment.

This trend was observed across all age groups. For example, among men who were younger than 55 at study entry, nine percent of retirees died versus just over one percent of those who were still working. The difference narrowed, but was still evident in older men.

Among people who were retired at the study's start, Bamia's team found, each five-year increase in the age at retirement was associated with a 10 percent reduction in mortality risk.

Early retirement tied to CVD
Even when the researchers accounted for factors like participants' age, education, smoking habits and weight, retirement status itself was related to the odds of dying during the study. In particular, earlier retirement seemed to increase the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

"The message that appears to be generated by the results of this study is that early retirement may be a risk factor for all-cause mortality and particularly mortality from diseases of the circulatory system for apparently healthy persons," Bamia and her colleagues write.

For many people, they note, early retirement might bring a higher quality of life. However, it might also have negative effects, like financial problems, a decrease in healthy habits like exercise, or psychological and social effects that take a health toll. – (ReutersHealth)

March 2008

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