Should you have retired earlier? Manual jobs linked to decline in health over 65

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New research shows people who remain in physically demanding jobs for longer before retiring could experience greater mental and physical health problems when they do retire. Source: Getty

While some people have no choice but to retire later in life, new research shows that staying in physically demanding jobs for longer may have significant impacts on mental and physical health.

The new research, conducted by researchers from Curtin University and published in the Journal of Industrial Relations, analysed data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey to determine whether earlier or traditional retirement had significant impacts on a person’s overall health.

Researchers investigated the effects of retirement on health for males and females at 60, which is considered early retirement, and at 65, which is considered traditional retirement. The focus was to assess how retirement impacts health in “early” or “traditional” retirees.

Previous research shows that employment offers people younger than 62 the chance to enhance their subjective health (how a person evaluates their own status), but that health declines when people remain in work past the age of 62.

“Our study found that there are no significant physical or mental health effects for males and females if they retire early or at the ‘traditional age’ of 65,” lead author Kantha Dayaram said in a statement. “However, we did find that men and women with labour intensive jobs experienced lower physical and mental health if they retired later, compared to those who worked in professional and managerial jobs.”

This means working in physically strenuous jobs that require heavy lifting or prolonged periods of standing could result in worse health outcomes if these people retire later. Participants in the HILDA study completed self-questionnaires to assess their mental and physical health. Mental health referred to factors such as social functioning and vitality, while physical health comprised of bodily pain, functioning and general health.

Interestingly, the study found male retirees who have access to superannuation funds experience better mental health outcomes than females with superannuation funds. Female retirees living in remote locations also experience worse mental health than those who live in urban areas, while more people continued to remain employed in occupational jobs such as managers, professionals and administrators.

The increased demand for the age pension in Australia has led to reforms in extending the retirement age to 67, but researchers believe this is unfair to some Australians – particularly those who partake in physically strenuous work.

“Although Australia has no mandatory retirement age, people who are looking to retire are currently able to access their age pension at 65 or older, depending on the year they were born, and employer based superannuation funds at age 60,” Dayaram said.

The qualifying age for access to age pension is set to increase by six months every two years to 67 years by 2023. Experts fear the introduction of new reforms to delay when people can access their funds could have serious health implications for some of the ageing population.

Policy makers are now being asked to consider occupations, financial access and geographical location when making decisions about access to age pension, rather than someone’s age.

“The findings highlight the impact of our jobs, financial status and living location on our health when we retire,” Dayaram said. “Workforce planning and flexible work arrangements are crucial to our health, and policy makers need to find suitable ways to address this.”

How old were you when you retired and what was your job before you retired?

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