Age Before Duty: Is Length of Career Linked to Length of Life?


Is your career connected to your lifespan?

If you’ve heard studies that say those with higher income jobs live longer, or anyone who retires early is cutting their lives by X number of years, you’re likely led astray by statistics, says a BBC article entitled “Do Those Who Retire Early Live Longer?”

Retirement Age

Research seems to point in a lot of different directions, making it hard to determine. For instance, a study by The Boeing Company cited evidence that those who retire the earliest live longer than employees who wait for later retirement. A paper by the company’s research team showed individuals who retired at 55 lived to the age of 83, on average. By contrast, the study results showed those who retired at 65 only lived an average of 18 months longer.

A study by Shell Oil Company in the U.S. came up with the opposite results when epidemiologists looked at the lifespan of past employees. They found that earlier retirees lived shorter lives, on average, than those who kept working until they were 65, says the BBC article.

But why?

There are many factors that can skew statistics such as these, the article says. Actuary Dave Grimshaw, a risk analyst in the UK, offers a few factors that may affect outcome in this study:

  • People retire at different ages for different reasons
  • Forced retirement due to ill health
  • Early retirees with affluence have better healthcare
  • Some early retirees don’t live to 65, so aren’t considered in the statistics

Choice of Profession

Are there some career choices that put you in an earlier grave than others?

The UK’s Office for National Statistics says there actually isn’t a big difference in lifespans between workers in more physically demanding jobs than those with easier careers, the BBC says. 

“Lawyers, accountants and so on are a group (in the ONS data) called ‘higher managerial and professional,’” Grimshaw says. “They would have life expectancy of nearly 19 years for males at age 65. At the other end of the scale, you would have occupations such as (laborers) and cleaners, where life expectancy at 65 is nearer 15 years.”

Though there’s still a difference here, Grimshaw warns that statistics may be deceiving. It may have nothing to do with the careers, but may be due to a gap in socioeconomic class. Poorer individuals tend to have lower quality healthcare, affecting lifespan.

The actuary says he’s seen statistics supporting the idea that certain professions, such as teachers, prison officers and surgeons die younger if they retire later. Some claims say an average of just 18 months after retirement, on average. But Grimshaw counters that.

“Office for National Statistics data would suggest that teachers and similar groups to them would have over 18 years to live at age 65 (for men),” Grimshaw says.

The BBC article adds that Grimshaw further claims that due to increasing life expectancies, “teachers and other professionals are likely to have closer to 25 or even 30 years left in them at 65.”

Since you can’t seem to rely on statistics to determine if retiring now or later will add to your longevity, you may just have to decide based on travel plans, pension … or start a second career.  

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This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Corp (or its franchisees and affiliates). You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.