A significant increase in mortality starts at 62, according to a new study. The escalation is much more dramatic for men than for women. And the fatal catalyst, the study’s authors believe, might be the availability of Social Security.
A lot happens in our early 60s. Some change jobs, scale back working hours or retire. Our health care coverage may shift. We may have fewer financial resources, or we may begin collecting Social Security. About one-third of Americans immediately claim Social Security at 62. Ten percent of men retire in the month they turn 62. But the numbers show that there’s a sizable 2% increase in male mortality at age 62 in the U.S. Researchers think these deaths are concentrated among the 10% of men who retire at 62, so instead of 2 in 100, it would be 2 in 10. So, the increase in the probability of death for men who retire could be as high as 20%.
Retirement could have positive long-term benefits for your health because you’re taking better care of yourself. Or it could be that, in the long run, retirement has a negative effect. Think of how a retiree slowly withdraws from the world because he no longer has any reason to engage. So far researchers find negative consequences in the short term. For example, many deaths come from traffic accidents. If you don’t go to work, you have more hours of the day to be driving around. Medical literature suggests when older men are more sedentary, they’re more likely to be at risk for infection. When they lose their jobs, they increase their smoking rate, linked to deaths from diseases such as COPD or respiratory illness.
The takeaway is that retirement may be bad for the health of men, particularly for men who retire at the relatively early age of 62. That is the leading explanation. The study’s authors aren’t necessarily saying people shouldn’t retire. But if you’re thinking about retirement, particularly if you’re 62 and if your health is poor to start with, think about preventive health measures. Stay healthy, see a physician, don’t just sit on the couch, but don’t overdo it either. Be careful about driving. It is a tricky time. As a nation we could design policies aimed at working with people thinking about retirement at age 62 to encourage them to be healthy.
The caveat is that many people retire at 62 because their health is poor. If you pushed the early retirement age higher, some would work longer and live longer. But others would suffer.
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