It seems that work is good for us. Many people dream of the day that they can retire, but in reality our work keep us healthy. A recent study carried out by The University of Maryland and published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology revealed that people that retire early are more likely to develop health conditions sooner than those that carry on working. This follows research from a few years ago that found that working helped to reduce the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The best option is to cut back working hours when you reach retirement age. Rather than stop working completely, work part time, either just for a couple of days a week, or reduced hours. Finding alternative employment after retiring does not have the same benefit as reducing hours though, as the stress involved in learning a new job and learning new systems can reduce health rather than prolong life.
One problem is that many people are forced to retire from the job that they love only to then have to find alternative work as their pension is not enough to live on. These are often in a worse situation than those that fully retire. Both scenarios lead to declining mental health compared to cutting back on work. The key to good health on retiring is to find ideal work to keep the mind active without stressing it.
“Choosing a suitable type of bridge employment will help retirees transition better into full retirement and in good physical and mental health.” Dr Kenneth Shultz, University of Maryland.
Mental health impacts physical health. Researchers have now shown that deteriorating mental health has an affect on the physical condition, so the mental strains on stopping work can ultimately lead to poorer physical health.
“All the evidence suggests that if your mental wellbeing is depleted it will affect you physically. Conversely, if you are more positive mentally you are going to be much more robust and active. And if you continue working after retirement often your status remains similar to that you experienced during your career, and as a result your self-esteem and sense of wellbeing will be enhanced.” Prof. Cary Cooper, Occupational Health Psychologist, University of Lancaster, UK.
There are of course exceptions to this rule. If your current job is very stressful or involves working in harsh conditions, then full retirement can lead to improved mental and physical wellbeing.