Well-Being Improves After Retirement

Leaving the work force may improve one’s health, a large, French cohort study showed.

Among workers at a French national gas and electricity company, retirement was associated with sharp reductions in mental and physical fatigue, as well as more modest reductions in depression, according to Hugo Westerlund, PhD, of the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University, and colleagues.

Rates of major chronic diseases, however, did not change around the time of retirement, the researchers reported online in BMJ.

“Although observational data cannot prove causality and rule out residual confounding, the findings provide unique evidence that retirement is related to improvement in well-being, with little effect on risk of chronic disease,” they wrote.

Westerlund and colleagues said the findings could have important implications as the population ages.

“Our results indicate that fatigue may be an underlying reason for early exit from the labor market and decreased productivity and that redesign of work, healthcare interventions, or both may be necessary to enable a larger proportion of older people to work in full health.”

The researchers examined the health effects of retirement using the GAZEL study, which followed workers at the French company, Electricité de France-Gaz de France (EDF-GDF), over a 15-year period with annual questionnaires. The researchers captured health information for the seven years before and seven years after the year of retirement.

The 11,246 men and 2,858 women included in the study retired at an average age of 54.8; all were retired by age 64.

Most health outcomes were measured annually by self-report, although depressive symptoms were assessed at only four time points during the study. The average number of repeat measurements per participant was 12.1.

Throughout the study, the cumulative prevalence of respiratory disease, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke increased with age, with no change in the trajectory at the time of retirement.

Read the full article at MedPage Today.

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