Longevity – Retire early or Later?

At one of my work appraisals a few years ago my appraiser said he had some sad news. The previous year I had mentioned transitioning to retirement and giving up the day job, so I asked “So what’s the bad news?” He said “Well you’ve left it too late to retire early and since you are not going to continue working into old(er) age you’ll die early” – OK – Thanks for that!!


Retiring early can actually lengthen your life.

A Dutch study published in the journal of Health and Economics in 2017 showed that male civil servants over the age of 54 who retired early were 42% less likely to die over the subsequent five years compared to those who continued working. (Unfortunately there were too few women in the sample who met the early retirement eligibility requirements but it’s likely the outcome for women would be similar.)

Retiring frees you up, allowing you more time to invest in your health.

  1. Better Sleep.
  2. More Exercise
  3. Keeping Healthy

Work can be stressful, while retirement can alleviate that stress, and stress can create hypertension, a risk factor for various potentially fatal conditions and retirees in this study were significantly less likely to die from stroke or from cardiovascular diseases.

Other results in the Journal  Human Resources 2014   also indicate that the retirement effect on health is beneficial and significant. Investigation into behavioural data, such as smoking and exercise, suggests that retirement may affect health through such channels. With additional leisure time, many retirees practice healthier habits. The study showed that about seven years of retirement can be as good for health as reducing the chance of getting a serious disease by 20 percent.

Suffering stress on the job has long been recognised as a risk factor for coronary artery disease and stroke and if your job is physically demanding, you may have an increased risk of injury. If you feel your job lacks meaning, if you’re bored, or if you feel “burned out,” that may add to stress or affect your mood. This is supported by a number of studies that have highlighted the health benefits of retiring and a 2010 study of 14,000 people, published in The BMJ, found that retiring was linked to a substantial reduction in mental and physical fatigue and depressive symptoms.



Stay Working can actually lengthen your life.

Still, there are benefits to having a job, too. That’s why the advice from a Japanese physician and longevity expert Dr Shigeaki Hinohara  who lived until 105 is …


“Don’t retire.”


But what would he know – he wrote this aged 97 whist still working flat out with 18 hour days!

He said that there is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65. In Japan the current retirement age is 65 and was set half a century ago when the average life-expectancy in Japan was 68 years and there were only 125 Japanese aged over 100. Today, Japanese women live to on average 86 and men 80 and there are 36,000 centenarians! In 20 years it is estimated that there will be 50,000 people over the age of 100. There are many financial and economic arguments for working longer the main one being obvious – If the retirement age is 65 and life expectancy 68 that’s 3 years of pension – not 20 years or so – where’s the money going to come from? Well in simple terms your grandchildren’s taxes and therein lies yet another problem – The Japanese birth rate is falling and the population contracting but with an ever increasing percentage of elderly retired citizens! HOWEVER these demographic and economic considerations are covered elsewhere in this blog.

Sayings of Dr Shigeaki Hinohara

 Energy comes from feeling good, not from eating well or sleeping a lot. 

All people who live long — regardless of nationality, race or gender — share one thing in common: None are overweight. 

Always plan ahead. 

There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65. 

Share what you know. 

When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. 

To stay healthy, always take the stairs and carry your own stuff. 

Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it. 

Don’t be crazy about amassing material things.

Science alone can’t cure or help people. 

Life is filled with incidents, learn from them.  

Find a role model and aim to achieve even more than they could ever do. 

It’s wonderful to live long. 

Who knows if he’s right but at 105 he was still sticking to these rules!

Who said:-

“The less I work, the more I enjoy it!” *

(*…that was me! However NOT quite less is more and certainly not NO work is perfect…Yet!)


Being in a work environment can keep your mind and body active. If you work alongside others that will likely provide a sense of belonging whereas social isolation and loneliness has been shown to be linked to cognitive decline, anxiety, depression and even death from coronary heart disease and stroke. Could it be that work gives one a sense of purpose, which research has shown to be associated with a host of benefits, including having a healthier heart and lower risk of dementia. In fact, one study found that the longer you work, the lower your risk for dementia.

Work stimulates cognitive development if that work is engaging and also challenging. Sudoku and Crosswords are not enough and it’s important to do things that challenge the mind like learning a new language, instrument or a new technology.

There’s increasing evidence that the payoff of working past age 65 may go beyond income. Some studies have linked working past retirement with better health and longevity.

A 2016 study suggested that working even one more year beyond retirement age was associated with a 9% to 11% lower risk of dying during the 18-year study period, regardless of health. It has also been suggested that, compared with people who retired, people who worked past age 65 were about three times more likely to report being in good health and about half as likely to have serious health problems, such as cancer or heart disease. The study concluded that early retirement may be a risk factor for mortality and prolonged working life may provide survival benefits among US adults.


The bottom line:-

Leaving your job can come at a cost but it does give you more free time and as long as you spend that time wisely you may be able to prolong your life working later in life. This could  pay off in more than just income and we find that education levels have risen generally and people who are more educated are more likely to work at any age, so keep learning!


A Mixed Bag!

The fact is, scientists have found mixed results when they’ve studied the effect of working past retirement. Some studies find less of a benefit, no benefit, or maybe even harm. On balance they tend toward the positive but suggest the health benefits of working simply depend on individual circumstances.



What you should do?

We do know that staying mentally, socially, and physically active — which working may enable you to do — is good for health. Mental stimulation and problem solving are good for maintaining thinking skills; social engagement is associated with staving off chronic disease; and staying physically active, even if it’s just walking, can lead to both better health and sharper thinking skills.

Does that mean you should keep working?

YES – if you can, but be smart about what you’re doing and find something that’s meaningful and gives you purpose.

If you’re happy at work, that’s one sign that work may be good for your health.


NOdon’t stay in a job you hate.

If you’re unhappy at work, that’s one sign that work may not be good for your health.


Q1. Should I stay or should I go?

Q2. Have I left it too late?

Q3. Should I just keep on working? 

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