Work longer, live longer. That's the takeaway from new research looking at the mortality rates of retirees based on how soon they cash out. The study, with appears on the National Bureau of Economic Research, shows that those who retire and begin taking Social Security as soon as they're eligible at age 62 have a notably higher death rate than those who wait a few years to retire. The phenomenon is particularly noticeable in men, who see an increase of about 20 percent in mortality rate if they retire at age 62.
Dr. Maria Fitzpatrick from Cornell University co-authored the study. She tells KTRH that, while the data is intriguing, the research drew no solid conclusions. "We cannot say 100 percent that it is the increase in retirement that is causing the increase in death," says Fitzpatrick. "But it seems to be the case that retirement, among the men who retired at age 62, leads to an increase in mortality."
There are several factors in play as to what is behind the numbers. Past studies have found that retirement can have unintended negative consequences, both physical and mental. Dr. Fitzpatrick notes it could be related to the fact that those with existing health conditions tend to retire early, and that can lead to more unhealthy behavior. "For example, it's been shown in other works that when men stop working they increase their smoking, and so that could have negative health consequences," she says.
While this study produced more questions than answers, Dr. Fitzpatrick hopes it will lead to further investigation. "Future research and policymakers should pay attention to the really important potential health consequences of retirement," she says. "This is perhaps a particularly vulnerable point in people's lives."