Michael Hlinka: Is retirement good for your health?
- November 30, 2010 9:05 AM |
- By Michael Hlinka
(Money Talks is a business column from CBC radio.)
By Michael Hlinka, CBC business columnist
I remember that when I was growing up, I used to hear my father say all the time: "Your health is everything." Because I was a child, I didn't really understand what he was talking about. I thought that the most important thing was to have a job. That way, you could pay for the things you needed to survive.
Of course, the point my father was making was simply that if you're not healthy, you can't even work in the first place ... it really makes everything else moot.
This helps explain why I'm so interested in some newly released research on the link between health and early retirement.
The people conducting the study examined 14,000 French employees who took early retirement at the age of 55. Researchers tracked the health of these folks for 15 years -checking in with them both before and after they left the work force.
In the year before retirement, a quarter suffered from symptoms of depression, and 10 per cent had a known medical condition such as heart disease. After retirement, rates of mental and physical fatigue saw a big drop. There was also a significant decrease in symptoms of depression.
Most interesting - at least to me - was that there wasn't a significant improvement in physical health. Retirement seemed to be about better mental health.
Yet, not all research out there supports the idea that retirement improves one's health. There's another body of work suggesting that the "right" kind of work actually boosts self-esteem, and that this in turn translates into better mental and physical health. If you've got that kind of employment - for health reasons alone - you may be better off sticking with it, even if you don't need the money.
There are also studies indicating that workers who move into part-time jobs after they stop working full-time are healthier than workers who give up employment altogether.
Now, it might be that there's some self-selection going on: Perhaps one of the reasons why people stop working full-time is that they can't work at all. And this makes me think that the health-retirement issue just might be like that chicken-egg question: Which comes first?
We would all agree that there is nothing more important than health. It seems to me that on an individual level, therefore, we have to decide whether staying in the workforce longer will contribute to our health, or whether retiring early - assuming that it's financially possible - is the better way to go.
Personally, I can't imagine retiring. But then again, I can't imagine what it's like not to enjoy good health, either.
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