16 November 2009

Retirement: The Fountain of Youth?

Here's a story that got big play on the French television news broadcasts last week. I thought it was interesting from a political point of view. It describes my experience after taking early retirement seven years ago. Embrace retirement — don't fear it.
Retirees say quitting work gave them
a new lease on life

There's no longer any doubt about it. Life after retirement does exist — and it's a happy, healthy life. It's just not true that quitting the work world makes people more vulnerable to all the ills that life can throw their way.

A recent study published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, shows that people experience an increase in their physical well-being after they go into retirement. During the last years of their working life, the number of people who say their health is in decline grows steadily, reaching 20% of those responding to surveys in France. That trend reverses itself immediately after retirement, with only 14% reporting the same feeling one year after quitting work.

With all the talk about the stresses of the workplace and increasing pressures on employees in companies everywhere, retirement appears more and more reinvigorating for many people. French president Sarkozy's proposal that the retirement age be pushed out to age 70 seems less and less likely to be adopted very soon. Fewer and fewer people are willing to spend their "golden years" at the office or on the shop floor.

What conclusions do the experts draw from the recent study? First, they say, the experiences of people who are close to retirement age ought be be taken into account in designing and implementing healthy work environments. It's dangerous to generalize, of course, and good health after retirement depends in part on the retiree's purchasing power and socio-economic well-being. It's important not to underestimate the effect of good morale on health issues.

One expert says: "The recent study is particularly interesting because it involved so many subjects — 14,000 in all — whose experiences were studied over a period of 14 years. And the results come at a time when the government is considering increases in the number of years people will have to work before they can retire. The authors of the report are researchers at the Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (Inserm), a French government organization overseen by two ministries, Research and Health. Their intention was surely to focus the government's attention on the need to re-think their plans and seek changes in the workplace that would benefit people approaching retirement age. If retirees, as the study claims, really do feel that they have gotten a new lease on life, it's because the last years in the workplace are the most stressful. People develop a new enthusiasm for life when they can finally extract themselves from the stresses of the workplace and the feelings of dissatisfaction they feel at the end of a long professional career."
Here's a link to The Lancet's resumé of the study.


  1. Very interesting. My observation of most recent retirees is that this is very true. Personally we're just counting the days until we can extract ourselves from the workplace. Unfortunately it still runs into thousands ! But we're working on it.

    I have also encountered (through work) so many people whose plans for their retirement fall apart due to ill health, so the sooner the better while we can enjoy it.

    Having contributed a small fortune to the nation's bank balance over the years I now feel enough is enough, time to let some other mugs drag themselves to work every day to keep the nation afloat.

  2. I fully agree, Ken and Jean!
    Retire as early as you possibly can, (financially); there's so much to see and do in this world and you need to do it when you're still young enough to be physically capable!

  3. Here, here! The only trick is to get satisfaction from other things than one's job.
    Did you see the interview with Philippe Bouvard last night on "7 à 8"? He basically said that if he quit working, and retired, he'd go crazy because he doesn't garden, or hunt or any of those activities that a retired person does.

  4. Yes!! Retire ASAP; before you're too old & frail to enjoy it.

    Do it even if it means lowering your standard of "living". You don't need all that stuff.

    That said, if you really enjoy your work and aren't just doing it for the money then keep at it. This category seems mostly populated by scientists and artists.

  5. By the way, the article I translated/adapted came from La Dépêche in Toulouse.

  6. I think that I actually like my job enough that I am happy to continue doing it until age 65. BUT... I'm sure that a big part of that is that I get a large amount of vacation time.... really, if I didn't get 9 or 10 weeks in the summer, and a week in the winter and a week in the spring, I'd probably think differently. Happily, as it stands, my job overlaps with my major interests :)

  7. I saw that story in the English press. It was mentioned, briefly, in the US media, but got almost no play beyond that. Sadly, we seem to be a nation of workaholics.

  8. You know how much I love being retired. Ever since I retired, except for the very first year when I got breast cancer, I have been feeling so much happier. My daughter told me the other day that I had drastically changed and was so much cooler and relaxed than I used to be.
    Sure, no job pressure any more. And mind you, I don't miss anything. I do different things and love what I do


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