The Ideal Retirement Age Is...

...66 or older.

Working past age 65 could lead to a longer life, while retiring early may be a risk factor for dying earlier, according to researchers from Oregon State University in Corvalis.

Specifically, healthy adults who retired one year past age 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes, even when taking into account demographic, lifestyle and health issues.

Adults who described themselves as unhealthy were also likely to live longer if they kept working, the findings showed, which indicates that factors beyond health may affect post-retirement mortality.

The study: Led by Chenkai Wu and Robert Stawski, the team examined data collected from 1992 through 2010 through the Healthy Retirement Study, a long-term study of U.S. adults led by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Aging. The team focused on 2,956 people (of the initial 12,000 participants), all of whom began the study in 1992 and had retired by the end of the study period in 2010.

Poor health is one reason people retire early and also can lead to earlier death, so researchers wanted to find a way to mitigate a potential bias in that regard.

To do so, they divided the group into two. The first was unhealthy retirees or those who indicated that health was a factor in their decision to retire, while the second was healthy retirees, who indicated health was not a factor. About two-thirds of the group fell into the healthy category, while a third were in the unhealthy category.

The results:

  • During the study period, about 12 percent of the healthy and 25.6 percent of the unhealthy retirees died.

  • Healthy retirees who worked a year longer had an 11 percent lower risk of mortality.

  • Unhealthy retirees who worked a year longer had a 9 percent lower mortality risk.

  • Working a year longer had a positive impact on the study participants' mortality rate regardless of their health status.

"The healthy group is generally more advantaged in terms of education, wealth, health behaviors and lifestyle, but taking all of those issues into account, the pattern still remained," explained Stawski. "The findings seem to indicate that people who remain active and engaged gain a benefit from that."

The findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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