Research links men who claim their Social Security at age 62 with up to a 20% greater risk of mortality.
Your work really is your livelihood.
About one-third of Americans retire and claim their Social Security benefits as soon as they become eligible at 62, but a new study from researchers at Cornell University and the University of Melbourne suggests it might be in their best interest to punch in for a few more years.
Economists Maria Fitzpatrick (Cornell) and Timothy Moore (Melbourne) compared U.S. birth and death records with pension claims. And they found a strong correlation between people who begin claiming their Social Security three years early (at 62) and death – particularly men, whose mortality risk jumped about 20%.
They wrote that the change in female mortality was “smaller and imprecisely estimated,” and suggested the potentially dire effect on men stems from their mental health being more tied into their careers, so the jolt of leaving their jobs hits them especially hard.
Retirement is ranked 10th on the list of life’s 43 most stressful events for a reason. If your social life was entwined with your work, or you are not financially secure, then leaving the security of that day job with your regular friends and steady paycheck can be depressing and challenging.
And if your retirement was involuntary – you were fired or laid off, or you had to leave early for health reasons – then the Golden Years will be seen in a much more negative light.
There’s some limitations to the study, as the researchers don’t know whether some of the early retirees had to leave work early to deal with underlying health conditions that could have later killed them.
But it supports a body of research that suggests that the longer you work, the longer you live.
Harvard’s ongoing U.S. Health and Retirement Study of 5,422 people has found that retirees are 40% more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke than those who were still working, and that increase was more pronounced during the first year after retirement, and leveled off after that.
A report from the U.K. Institute of Economic Affairs proposed that while retirees may enjoy an initial boost in health thanks to lowering their stress and having more time to have fun or exercise, the risk of adverse effects rises the longer their retirement lasts. Retirement increased the chance of suffering clinical depression by about 40%, and the risk of developing at least one diagnosed physical illness by 60%.
No wonder 25% of U.K. retirees return to work, with half of them clocking back in within five years of their retirement. And this “unretirement,” which has crossed the pond. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that running up to 2024, older workforce age groups (65-74 and 75-plus) will grow faster annually than any other age group.
So how can you approach your well-deserved break without fearing the reaper? Monster.com career expert Vicki Salemi suggests creating an infrastructure similar to your workplace for your health and happiness.
“When you worked, you would surround yourself with colleagues, knew your role and contributed to society,” she explained the Moneyish. “The same can be applied to your retirement. Volunteer and get involved with the community, so you have that social component and also feel like you’re keeping your skills sharp and contributing to society. Joining a book club and taking cooking classes are also some examples to parlay your interests to decrease depression and isolation in retirement.”
And Harvard’s Study of Adult Development has a few more suggestions, such as:
- Go out and play. Activities such as golf, bridge, ballroom dancing, traveling, wine tasting, marathon running or whatever you love can help you let go of your old work life while making new friends. Or you can stay close with your colleagues by inviting them to join you.
- Get creative. Whether it’s painting, gardening, knitting or sculpting, firing up your creative side is a great way to boost your mood and keep your brain healthy.
- Keep learning. Stay sharp and engaged by learning a new language (or brushing up on that high school French or Spanish), picking up an instrument you’ve always wanted to play, or taking classes to explore a subject that fascinates you.
Plus, these activities could even parlay into a fun part-time job or new career, if you want to keep going. “Who knows, you may find yourself working a dream job you wouldn’t have had time to consider while previously working full-time, like becoming a Zumba instructor!” said Salemi.
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