Early retirement and Health
For some people, particularly those retiring into the Independent Phase, retirement can lead to an improvement in physical health.
While early retirement for reasons of poor health is associated with declines in physical health and health generally declines with age, some people experience an improvement in physical health immediately following retirement. This is particularly true for those who retire into the Independent Phase. For these people, planned and voluntary, in some cases early, retirement can result in improved physical health levels, with these improvements typically ascribed to better health behaviours and relief from work-related strain.
Jobs that are stressful or physically demanding can have a negative effect on health, leading to an improvement in health as a result of later life. However, if work and related activities are one of the primary forms of physical activity for an individual, their health is likely to decline after retirement, unless they make appropriate adjustments. Those in the Independent
Phase, with minimal health issues and full physical functionality, are best positioned to make necessary adjustments, compared to those in the Decline or Dependent Phases may be limited by their existing health conditions. Approaches to health and physical activity at the point of later life can impact health trajectories over the course of later
life although some health issues will be unavoidable.
Some people change their health behaviours at retirement, while others don’t. Those who don’t change except that Retirement will make little difference to their health concerns. These are people who have changed their health behaviours before retirement. Some of those have already made substantive changes to their health behaviours prior to retiring, often in response to specific health issues. Then there are those people who don’t intend to change their health behaviours at retirement because they are happy to continue existing patterns of behaviour, out of habit or enjoyment, whether because their behaviour is already healthy or regardless of health advice.
Then there are those people who see retirement as a time for a change in the way they approach their own health. These people expect retirement to be more active than working. They see a direct link between work and specific negative health behaviours and expect retirement to alleviate health problems and improve health practices. These folks use retirement as a chance to make changes and believe that there is a link between increased leisure and specific health behaviours and so expect a positive change in retirement. The final group are people who expect retirement to be less active than working life, they see a direct link between retirement and potentially negative behaviours and plan to actively address these.
Which group are you in?