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June 4, 2016
by Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

Work Longer to Live Longer: New Research Data About Retirement and Its Impact

June 4, 2016 12:35 by Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

In modern living, work fills a big part of life. Work has long been considered to be one of the greatest virtues of mankind as it serves critical functions in human life. For many people, it is customary to spend many hours at work which is increasingly becoming the norm in modern culture.

Because more people are spending longer hours at work than any other places in life, a healthy balance is sometimes hard to establish. As a result of this trend, the extent to which work influences human life is often viewed as the culprit of various health issues (both physical and mental), as it tends to dominate many facets of life. 

Consequently, early retirement is espoused and even encouraged as the ultimate solution to this newly emergent phenomenon.

This view, however, was recently challenged by a ground-breaking new study conducted by Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). Contrary to what most people believe, retirement has been found to have a detrimental impact on both mental and physical health over time.

Despite the seeming benefits on health immediately following retirement, the medium-longer term effects have been found to cause a drastic decline in health for both men and women (IEA, 2016).

New Data

According to the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Age Endeavour Fellowship (2013), retirement increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by about 40% and the probability of having at least one diagnosed physical condition by about 60%. At the same time, the probability of taking a drug for such a condition is increased by about 60%.

The length of time spent in retirement was also found to be significantly correlated. The results further showed that retirement decreases the likelihood of being in ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ self-assessed health by between 10% and 30%. As the retirement period prolongs, the probability of suffering from clinical depression increases proportionately by 17%, the probability of having at least one diagnosed physical condition by 22%, and the probability of taking a drug for such a condition by 19%. (ibid.).

What This Means

As more people are living longer with the advancement in medicine and technology, these findings further support the recent demographic changes warranting a new approach to retirement policies which could possibly remove barriers to working longer.

The new data are clearly illustrative of the human nature to derive significant meaning from work. For humans, work not only serves as the essential means to survive but also as an indispensable force of quality living.

As aforementioned, human beings are born to engage in meaningful work as it directly affects the way we define and construct our existential purpose. This in turn can invariably translate into our physical as well as mental well being.

Work, in this sense, is more than a simple mode of living and is directly tied to the sense of wholeness as human beings. Given its continually evolving role throughout the course of our lifetime, we are also encouraged to re-assess how we might re-integrate its principal role into the continuum of life.


By no means does this mean that humans have to be working all the time to stay well or live longer. As always, moderation is key and it would be important to establish a healthy balance between work and play so as to preserve the optimal level of homeostasis.

As further evidenced by the empirical data, work is the very fabric of life which we can neither opt out of nor rule out if we are to thrive in life.

There may actually be a fine line between what constitutes work versus retirement. Our relationship with work may evolve over time due to different factors, but its core principle will never cease to play a critical role in our day to day living.

Perhaps, work is the conduit through which life may be fueled to continue and extend well beyond the natural course of aging.  


Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). June 16,2016. Retirement causes a major decline in physical and mental health, new research finds. Retrieved from

About the Author

Dr. Agnes Oh Dr. Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

Dr. Agnes Oh is dually licensed as a clinical psychologist and a marriage and family therapist in the state of California, fully committed to helping each individual to maximize his/her intrinsic potential to heal, grow, and thrive.

Dr. Agnes Oh has a clinical practice in Glendale, CA

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