Retirement Could Extend Your Life

By Richard Asa and Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
May 26, 2023
Retirement Could Extend Your Life

If you can plan ahead and have the money you’ll need, plus plan to use your time wisely, you can expect to be happier and healthier in retirement.

Before you sell your business or tell your employer or clients you’re calling it quits, take a big-picture look at how you’ll spend your time in retirement.

If you stay active and purposeful, you might live longer than if you keep working, some research suggests. When Dutch civil servants received an offer to retire at 55, for example, those who took advantage of it were less likely to die in the next five years.

A U.S. study found that seven years of retirement did people as much good as cutting their chance of diabetes dramatically. Other researchers have estimated that retirement cuts the chance of fair to poor health by 35 percent. A U.S. study with data for more than 6,000 people 50 and older found “strong evidence that retirement improves reported health, mental health, and life satisfaction.”


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Keep Your Brain Young Long After Retirement


Summarizing 25 studies from around the world in a meta-analysis, one team concluded that the effects of retirement on health are mixed. It all depends on your circumstances at work and as a retiree. That may sound like common sense, but it’s helpful to know that the answer isn’t obvious.

Before you take the plunge, look at your situation carefully. Are you someone who needs to be around people and feel useful?  

Overall, many people feel more socially connected while retired. You can care for grandkids or serve on non-profit boards that are meaningful to you. In a study with data for nearly 13,000 American adults age 50 and up, researchers found that volunteering at least 100 hours a year cut mortality risk, compared to non-volunteers. It’s possible, but harder, to volunteer that much if you’re a full-time employee. You can rekindle romance by traveling with your spouse or picking up a new hobby together.

It also matters how physically active you’ll be. If you kept fit in a strenuous job, one study found that you might pile on pounds sitting around as a retiree. You’ll need to develop a new habit, such as exercising for health. But if your work makes you sedentary because of working many hours, stress, or a commute, retirement could be exactly what you need to jump-start a fitness program.

There’s no question that physical activity extends life and wellness as people age. On average, retirees are more likely to exercise, and they tend to get more sleep and spend more time on activities like gardening, burning more calories than computer work.  

It's also true that research has found that retirement is bad for your health, but the challenge is weeding out how many people retired because their health was already declining.  

The saddest situation is when you can’t afford to retire and soldier on despite poor health. In the United States, the age for full Social Security retirement benefits has been increasing gradually and, so far, research suggests that people who work longer are in poorer health.

There are good reasons to ditch your job: If you think you’ll feel greater purpose, exercise more, and have less reason to eat junk food, smoke, or drink alcohol as a retiree. It all comes down to what you’ll do with your time.  

If you’re not sure, consider cutting back at work, or switching from a full-time job to self-employment, being careful to control your hours and obligations.  

If you can plan, ahead and have the money you’ll need, plus plan to use your time wisely, you can expect to be happier and healthier in retirement.


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Is Long-Term Care Insurance Right for You?


May 26, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN