There is a widespread perception that early retirement is associated with longer life expectancy and later retirement is associated with early death. But no consensus has been reached on the effect of early retirement on survival.
The study took place in the US state of Texas and involved over 3,500 employees of the petrochemical industry who retired at 55, 60, and 65. Participants were monitored for up to 26 years to assess whether there was any survival advantage of early retirement.
After adjusting for factors such as sex and socioeconomic status, the researchers found that employees who retired at 55 had a significantly increased mortality compared with those who retired at 65. In fact mortality was almost twice as high in the first 10 years after retirement at 55 compared with those who continued working.
In contrast, employees who retired at 60 had similar survival to those who retired at 65.
Although some workers retired at 55 because of failing health, these results clearly show that early retirement is not associated with increased survival, conclude the authors. On the contrary, mortality improved with increasing age at retirement for people from both high and low socioeconomic groups.