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Earlier retirement doesn't mean longer life

21st October 2005

People who give up work in their 50s do not live longer lives than those who continue to work until retirement age, a new study suggests.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, also revealed that people who did stop working at 55 have nearly twice the death rate of those who continue to work until they are 65.

A team from the Shell Health Service observed 3,500 employees of the petrochemical industry who retired at the ages of 55, 60, and 65.

Despite obvious findings between sexes (men are more likely to die younger than women) and socioeconomic factors (those on lower incomes were more likely to die younger), a distinct difference between retirement ages was found.

Employees who retired at age 55 had a significantly increased mortality compared to those who retired at 65.

Factors that could influence this earlier mortality rate include poor health as the reason for early retirement, lack of social engagement during retirement and lack of physical activity.

Baroness Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre UK, told the BBC that greater social engagement and involvement was key to improving the health of the elderly population.

"Work is huge part of this equation, and provides mental and physical activity, self-esteem, social interaction and income for many of us," she said.