Intended for healthcare professionals


Is early retirement good for your health?

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 24 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6089
  1. Alex Burdorf, professor in determinants of public health
  1. 1Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, 3000 CA, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  1. a.burdorf{at}

Yes, regarding fatigue and depressive symptoms, but chronic disease is unaffected

Life expectancy is increasing steadily in developed countries. The gap between the common retirement age at 65 and life expectancy at that age has increased substantially; for example, in the Netherlands from 6.4 to 13.3 years in the past 50 years. Governments are seeking to increase the proportion of elderly people in paid employment to balance the ratio of employed people over dependent ones.1 Modern welfare states have created financial incentives to support employment at older age and are pushing the age of statutory retirement upwards. Extending working life is an important societal challenge. There is considerable debate about the timing of retirement and its influence on health: is retirement good or bad for your health? In the linked cohort study (doi:10.1136/bmj.c6149), Westerlund and colleagues assess the association between retirement and the subsequent risk of incident chronic diseases, depressive symptoms, and fatigue.2


Several studies have shown that retirement at younger age has adverse effects on health. A prospective study in a petrochemical company showed that workers who retired at age 55 had a 37% higher mortality than those who retired at 65. …

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