You probably know that putting off retirement can boost your finances. But did you know that staying in the workforce a little longer can have health benefits too?
That’s the word from researchers at Oregon State University and Colorado State University. In a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in September 2016, they reported that healthy people who retired at age 66 had an 11 percent lower risk of dying within the period they studied than those who retired at 65.
Even unhealthy people—those who said that poor health was an important factor in their decision to retire—tended to live longer if they quit working at 66 rather than 65. Their risk of dying was 9 percent lower.
The study was based on adults who retired sometime between 1992 and the end of the study period in 2010—a span of 16.9 years on average.
So if it’s beneficial to postpone your retirement to age 66, does that mean that 67, 68, 69, or even never, would be better still?
The research jury is still out on that one. For one thing, the study was observational, meaning cause and effect cannot be established. But some evidence does suggest that delaying retirement may have a protective effect against a variety of ailments. For example, a French study found that self-employed workers who retired later were less likely to develop dementia. Fortunately, the incidence of dementia in the early years of retirement was still relatively small, affecting well under 1 percent of 65- to 69-year-olds in the study, which was published in European Journal of Epidemiology in May 2014.
These findings underscore the health-related perks of employment that go beyond a mere paycheck. Those include intellectual stimulation, social relationships with coworkers, and even more physical activity than a leisurely retirement may provide.
Not everybody gets to choose when they retire, of course. Family responsibilities, job loss, medical problems, and other issues often force people to leave the workforce earlier than they might have planned. But if you have any choice in the matter, it may pay—both financially and in health terms—to hang in there awhile.
Greg Daugherty is an award-winning writer and editor specializing in retirement topics. He has served as editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest New Choices retirement magazine, executive editor of Consumer Reports, where he wrote a popular column about preparing for retirement, and senior editor at Money. His work has appeared in Money, Smithsonian, Parade, The New York Times, and NextAve.org, among others.