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Is being in paid work beyond state pension age beneficial for health? Evidence from England using a life-course approach
  1. Giorgio Di Gessa1,
  2. Laurie M Corna2,
  3. Loretta G Platts3,
  4. Diana Worts4,
  5. Peggy McDonough4,
  6. Amanda Sacker5,
  7. Debora Price6,
  8. Karen Glaser2
  1. 1Department of Social Policy, The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK
  2. 2Institute of Gerontology, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, King's College London, London, UK
  3. 3Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  4. 4Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5Institute of Epidemiology & Health, University College London, London, UK
  6. 6School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Giorgio Di Gessa, Department of Social Policy, The London School of Economics and Political Science, London WC2A 2AE, UK; g.di-gessa{at}


Background Given the current policy emphasis in many Western societies on extending working lives, we investigated the health effects of being in paid work beyond state pension age (SPA). Until now, work has largely focused on the health of those who exit the labour force early.

Methods Our data come from waves 2–4 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, including the life history interview at wave 3. Using logistic and linear regression models, we assessed the longitudinal associations between being in paid work beyond SPA and 3 measures of health (depression, a latent measure of somatic health and sleep disturbance) among men aged 65–74 and women aged 60–69. Our analyses controlled for baseline health and socioeconomic characteristics, as well as for work histories and health in adulthood and childhood.

Results Approximately a quarter of women and 15% of men were in paid work beyond SPA. Descriptive bivariate analyses suggested that men and women in paid work were more likely to report better health at follow-up. However, once baseline socioeconomic characteristics as well as adulthood and baseline health and labour market histories were accounted for, the health benefits of working beyond SPA were no longer significant.

Conclusions Potential health benefits of working beyond SPA need to be considered in the light of the fact that those who report good health and are more socioeconomically advantaged are more likely to be working beyond SPA to begin with.


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  • Contributors GDG conducted the analyses, drafted the article, contributed to the study design and co-led the interpretation of data with KG and LC. KG, LC and DP led the conception and design of the study, supervised the analyses, co-led the interpretation of data with GDG and contributed to manuscript revisions. LGP, AS, PM and DW led the construction and conceptualisation of the employment trajectories. AS and PM have also critically reviewed the manuscript and contributed to the interpretation of data. All authors have read and approved the final version.

  • Funding This study was funded by the British cross-research council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW) programme under Extending Working Lives as part of an interdisciplinary consortium on Wellbeing, Health, Retirement and the Lifecourse (WHERL) (ES/L002825/1); and by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (grand number MOP 11952) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research council (grant number 435121267).

  • Disclaimer The developers and funders of ELSA and the Archive do not bear any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations presented here.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval for all the ELSA waves was granted from the National Research and Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.