Background Retirement is an important transitional process in later life. Despite a large body of research examining the impacts of health on retirement, questions still remain regarding the association of retirement age with survival. We aimed to examine the association between retirement age and mortality among healthy and unhealthy retirees and to investigate whether sociodemographic factors modified this association.
Methods On the basis of the Health and Retirement Study, 2956 participants who were working at baseline (1992) and completely retired during the follow-up period from 1992 to 2010 were included. Healthy retirees (n=1934) were defined as individuals who self-reported health was not an important reason to retire. The association of retirement age with all-cause mortality was analysed using the Cox model. Sociodemographic effect modifiers of the relation were examined.
Results Over the study period, 234 healthy and 262 unhealthy retirees died. Among healthy retirees, a 1-year older age at retirement was associated with an 11% lower risk of all-cause mortality (95% CI 8% to 15%), independent of a wide range of sociodemographic, lifestyle and health confounders. Similarly, unhealthy retirees (n=1022) had a lower all-cause mortality risk when retiring later (HR 0.91, 95% CI 0.88 to 0.94). None of the sociodemographic factors were found to modify the association of retirement age with all-cause mortality.
Conclusions Early retirement may be a risk factor for mortality and prolonged working life may provide survival benefits among US adults.
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