A friend told me about some pretty shocking statistics indicating that retirees experience dramatically poorer health than their working counterparts. At first, I couldn’t believe it, so I did some research of my own.
Sure enough, many studies (some of which are referenced at the bottom) have shown that statistically, people who retire have not only poorer physical health but poorer mental health as well. They were more likely to have mobility issues, serious ailments and experience depression.
However, this doesn’t mean that we should try to keep working until we’re 90. Upon closer inspection, the statistics show that it is those people in full retirement who are suffering these ailments. Retirees who take on part-time jobs or have full social calendars generally maintain much better health than those who retire and become idle.
When you think about it, these statistics makes sense. The workplace provides an automatic social network which gives people more incentive to take care of themselves physically. You don’t want to be seen as slovenly by your colleagues, and so you are more likely to eat well and exercise. Even if all the exercise you get in a day is walking up the stairs to your office, at least it means you’re moving from the couch.
It is well-established that people with healthy relationships sustain better mental health. The workplace provides a place to form those friendships and support systems. It allows you to see your friends consistently and without too much effort on your part. After retirement, it becomes a task to get together- you have to set up a lunch date instead of just stopping by a friend’s work desk. As a result, many of these relationships fall away after retirement. Unfortunately, mental health seems to be falling away with them.
All of these statistics seem to be trying to scare us away from retirement, but we need to remember is that retirement is NOT a death sentence. It provides endless opportunities to do things that you never had time for. You could take up hiking, get a dog, take a cooking class, join a book club and the list goes on; anything to keep your life busy and fulfilling. The secret is not that we shouldn’t retire, it’s that we must learn to retire right.