Intended for healthcare professionals


Age at retirement and long term survival of an industrial population: prospective cohort study

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 27 October 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:995
  1. Shan P Tsai, manager, epidemiology (shan.tsai{at},
  2. Judy K Wendt, senior epidemiologist1,
  3. Robin P Donnelly, director, health services1,
  4. Geert de Jong, senior health adviser2,
  5. Farah S Ahmed, epidemiology research associate1
  1. 1Shell Health Services, Shell Oil Company, 910 Louisiana, Houston, TX 77002, USA
  2. 2Shell International, Hague, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to: S P Tsai
  • Accepted 16 August 2005


Objective To assess whether early retirement is associated with better survival.

Design Long term prospective cohort study.

Setting Petroleum and petrochemical industry, United States.

Subjects Past employees of Shell Oil who retired at ages 55, 60, and 65 between 1 January 1973 and 31 December 2003.

Main outcome measure Hazard ratio of death adjusted for sex, year of entry to study, and socioeconomic status.

Results Subjects who retired early at 55 and who were still alive at 65 had a significantly higher mortality than those who retired at 65 (hazard ratio 1.37, 95% confidence interval 1.09 to 1.73). Mortality was also significantly higher for subjects in the first 10 years after retirement at 55 compared with those who continued working (1.89, 1.58 to 2.27). After adjustment, mortality was similar between those who retired at 60 and those who retired at 65 (1.06, 0.92 to 1.22). Mortality did not differ for the first five years after retirement at 60 compared with continuing work at 60 (1.04, 0.82 to 1.31).

Conclusions Retiring early at 55 or 60 was not associated with better survival than retiring at 65 in a cohort of past employees of the petrochemical industry. Mortality was higher in employees who retired at 55 than in those who continued working.


  • Contributors SPT, RPD, and GJ developed the aim and scope of the study. SPT, JKW, and FSA carried out the statistical analysis. All authors contributed to the interpretations and to the final manuscript. SPT is the guarantor.

  • Funding None.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethical approval Not required.

  • Accepted 16 August 2005
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