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The impact of delayed retirement on health outcomes

At a glance


In light of the rising life expectancy and financial pressure on old age pension systems, many European countries have increased or plan to increase the eligibility age for retirement pension. The consequences of these policy reforms in terms of elderly people’s health are difficult to predict. On the one hand, working longer may result in worse health of retirees as compared to those who retired earlier. This effect may be due to harming effects of occupational activities such as lifting heavy weights or experiencing time pressure. On the other hand, maintaining regular activities and a steady daily structure up to an advanced age may have positive effects on individuals’ health outcomes.

The previous scientific literature on this topic remains inconclusive. The diverging outcomes in research on the association between retirement age and health outcomes in old age may explained by heterogeneous effects. For example, the specific occupational activity individuals carried out during their working life may impact this relationship.

Our study examines this question using Swedish and Swiss data. In a first subproject we examine the role of stimulating activities in explaining the association between retirement age and cognitive functioning in old age. We draw on linked dataset including the longitudinal Swedish Level of Living Survey (LNU), Swedish Panel Study of Living Conditions of the Oldest Old (SWEOLD) and Swedish register data. We examine the data by means of statistical analysis. In a second subproject we extend the first subproject to Swiss data.

Our study contributes to the existing literature by looking at the complex relationship between retirement age and health outcomes in old age. By identifying heterogeneous effects in this association, our analysis will allow highlighting whether particular social groups are more vulnerable when facing policy changes – such as an increasing retirement age – than others. This enables us to contribute to the discussion about the factors that act as resources or constraints in a potentially stressful situation such as the end of individuals’ occupational career.

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