It’s a common fear among men that the enforced idleness of retirement could trigger a descent into ill health and frailty.
But economists have found that quitting work actually boosts men’s health.
Women’s health, however, tends not to be affected by retirement.
Academics believe that retirement may help men live longer by improving their health
Earlier research believed retirement could impact someone’s mental capacity
Academics said this could be due to the fact that women tend to lead healthier lives anyway, or because their careers have been disrupted by motherhood.
‘I really expected that people’s health would deteriorate after they retired,’ said Claudia Senik, professor of economics at Paris-Sorbonne University.
‘My reasoning would be that many people feel disaffiliated, especially if they had invested a lot of interest in their work and they lose their social integration. But the data tell another story.’
The study, published by the IZA Institute of Labour Economics in Berlin, is the latest in a long-running debate over whether calling time on your career is good for you.
Earlier research had shown that retirement was often followed by accelerated cognitive decline, poorer mobility and an increased risk of chronic conditions.
It was also argued that those who carried on working after the statutory retirement age tended to be better off.
Other studies find that retirement helps people become more active and sleep better. Up until now, all research has grappled with the problem of cause and effect. For example, do people retire because they feel their health is starting to deteriorate?
Professor Senik tried to resolve this by looking not only at people’s health but at their expectations of health, The Times reported. Her team studied surveys carried out over a 14-year period involving Australian men and women aged 50 to 75.
Each year, participants gave details of eight aspects of their health. Men who retired were 5 per cent more likely to find their health was better than expected than those who did not.
There was no effect for women. Professor Senik said this didn’t mean retirement was bad for them, adding: ‘One possibility is women are more able than men to make correct judgments about their health.’