Previous studies have suggested a number of health benefits of retirement. Hugo Westerlund, from Stockholm University (Sweden), and colleagues assessed the health effects of retirement using data collected in the GAZEL study, which followed workers at a French national gas and electricity company, for a 15-year period. The 11,246 men and 2,858 women included in the study retired at an average age of 54.8 years; all were retired by age 64 years. The team utilized annual health questionnaires during the study, as well as health surveys conducted seven years prior to, and seven years following, retirement. Throughout the study, the cumulative prevalence of respiratory disease, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke increased with age, with no change in the trajectory at the time of retirement. However, the team observed substantial reductions in the prevalence of both mental fatigue and physical fatigue, from one year before to one year after retirement. They also observed a marked reduction in depressive symptoms in the same timeframe. Positing that by leaving the demands of work, people may feel less concerned about limited energy, leading to lower ratings of fatigue; and that retirement may allow people more time to engage in stimulating and restorative activities, such as physical exercise, the researchers conclude that: “Retirement did not change the risk of major chronic diseases but was associated with a substantial reduction in mental and physical fatigue and depressive symptoms, particularly among people with chronic diseases.”
Hugo Westerlund, Jussi Vahtera, Jane E Ferrie, Archana Singh-Manoux, Jaana Pentti, Maria Melchior, Constanze Leineweber, Markus Jokela, Johannes Siegrist, Marcel Goldberg, Marie Zins, Mika Kivimaki. “Effect of retirement on major chronic conditions and fatigue: French GAZEL occupational cohort study.” BMJ, 23 November 2010, 341; doi:10.1136/bmj.c6149.
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