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).
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.).
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
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
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 http://www.iea.org.uk/in-the-media/press-release/retirement-causes-a-major-decline-in-physical-and-mental-health-new-resea#.Vzr-BpJsJ_0.gmail