Retirement causes a major decline in physical and mental health, new research finds

New IEA research recommends the government should pursue policies that remove barriers to working longer

A ground-breaking new study has found that retirement has a detrimental impact on both mental and physical health over time. Although initially there may be a small bounce in health, over the medium-longer term retirement causes a drastic decline in health. This is the case for both men and women.

These findings are especially significant given the demographic changes in the UK and the financial pressure this is placing both on state pensions and health care costs.

This is clear evidence that the government should pursue policies that remove barriers to working longer. Higher state pension ages are both possible and desirable and should lead to better average health in old age. Impediments to later retirement such as those found in state pension systems, disability benefit provision and employment protection legislation should be removed.

Work Longer, Live Healthier: The relationship between economic activity, health and government policy, published by the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Age Endeavour Fellowship, isolates for possible confounding factors and shows that:

  • Retirement decreases the likelihood of being in ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ self-assessed health by about 40%.
  • Retirement increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by about 40%.
  • Retirement increases the probability of having at least one diagnosed physical condition by about 60%.
  • Retirement increases the probability of taking a drug for such a condition by about 60%.

The length of time spent in retirement is also significant. The results for doubling the number of years spent in retirement are as follows: