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Retirees who move from full-time employment into a part-time job or a temporary work experience fewer major diseases, and function at a better level daily, compared to those who never work again.  The findings were substantive even after controlling for people's physical and mental health prior to retirement.

The findings are reported in the October 2009 issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.  The study's authors refer to this transition between career and complete retirement as "bridge employment," which can be a part-time job, self-employment or a temporary job.

"Given the economic recession, we will probably see more people considering post-retirement employment," said co-author Mo Wang, PhD, of the University of Maryland.  "These findings highlight bridge employment's potential benefits."

For this study, Wang and his fellow researchers looked at the national Health and Retirement Study, which is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging. They used data from 12,189 participants who were between the ages of 51 and 61 at the beginning of the study.  The participants were interviewed every two years over a six-year period beginning in 1992 about their health, finances, and employment/work history and/or retirement life.

In order to measure the respondents' health over the course of the study, the researchers considered only physician-diagnosed health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, stroke and psychiatric problems.  They controlled not only for baseline physical and mental health but also for age, sex, education level, and total financial wealth.  The results showed the retirees who continued to work in a bridge job experienced fewer major diseases and fewer functional limitations than those who fully retired.

The participants answered a basic mental health questionnaire.  The results determined people whose after retirement jobs were related to their previous careers reported better mental health than those who fully retired.  However, these mental health improvements were not found among people who worked in jobs outside their career field post-retirement.

The authors say this maybe because retirees who take jobs not related to their career field may need to adapt to a different work environment or job conditions and, therefore, become more stressed.  Also, Wang has found retirees with financial problems are more likely to work in a different field after they officially retire.

"Rather than wanting to work in a different field, they may have to work," said Wang. "In such situations, it's difficult for retirees to enjoy the benefits that come with bridge employment." The authors suggest that, when possible, retirees carefully consider their choice of post- retirement employment.

"Choosing a suitable type of bridge employment will help retirees transition better into full retirement and in good physical and mental health," said co-author Kenneth Shultz, PhD, adding that employers who are concerned about a labor shortage due to numerous baby boomers retiring might consider bridge employment options for their retirees.

I believe volunteering and engaging in activities should be researched.  It’s been my observation that retirees who are actively participating in life activities, be it working or volunteering tend to be healthier.

Sitting around the house, allows us to become stagnant and isolated.

I believe the sense of purpose work provides, especially to men, has a tremendous positive impact on health and well-being.

References:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-10/apa-pww101309.php

Article: "Bridge Employment and Retirees' Health: A Longitudinal Investigation," Yujie Zhan, MS, Mo Wang, PhD, and Songqi Liu, MS, University of Maryland; Kenneth S. Shultz, PhD, California State University, San Bernardino; Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol. 14, No. 4.

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