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Inequalities in time from stopping paid work to death: findings from the ONS Longitudinal Study, 2001–2011
  1. Emily T Murray1,
  2. Ewan Carr1,2,
  3. Paola Zaninotto1,
  4. Jenny Head1,
  5. Baowen Xue1,
  6. Stephen Stansfeld3,
  7. Brian Beach4,
  8. Nicola Shelton1
  1. 1 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London (UCL), London, UK
  2. 2 Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, UK
  3. 3 Department of Psychiatry, Barts and the London, Queen Marys School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, UK
  4. 4 International Longevity Centre UK, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Emily T Murray, Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London WC1E 7HB, UK; emily.murray{at}


Background UK state pension eligibility ages are linked to average life expectancy, which ignores wide socioeconomic disparities in both healthy and overall life expectancy.

Objectives Investigate whether there are occupational social class differences in the amount of time older adults live after they stop work, and how much of these differences are due to health.

Methods Participants were 76 485 members of the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study (LS), who were 50–75 years at the 2001 census and had stopped work by the 2011 census. Over 10 years of follow-up, we used censored linear regression to estimate mean differences in years between stopping work and death by occupational social class.

Results After adjustment for age, both social class and health were independent predictors of postwork duration (mean difference (95% CI): unskilled class vs professional: 2.7 years (2.4 to 3.1); not good vs good health: 2.4 years (1.9 to 2.9)), with LS members in the three manual classes experiencing ~1 additional year of postwork duration than professional workers (interaction p values all <0.001). Further adjustment for gender and educational qualifications was reduced but did not eliminate social class and postwork duration associations. We estimate the difference in postwork years between professional classes in good health and unskilled workers not in good health as 5.1 years for women (21.0 vs 26.1) and 5.5 years for men (19.5 vs 25.0).

Conclusions Lower social class groups are negatively affected by uniform state pension ages, because they are more likely to stop work at younger ages due to health reasons.

  • inequalities
  • mortality
  • social class
  • epidemiology
  • longitudinal studies

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  • Contributors ETM conceptualised and designed the study, constructed the data set, performed theanalytical analyses and drafted/revised the initial manuscript. NS conceptualised the study, reviewed the results and reviewed the manuscript. EC, PZ, JH, BX, SS and BB reviewed the statistical results and manuscript.

  • Funding This work was jointly supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the UK’s Medical Research Council, under the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Cross-Council Programme initiative (ES/L002892/1). CeLSIUS is supported by the ESRC (ES/K000365/1 and R00823X/1).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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