Retirees who work, experience fewer major diseases and are able to function better da-to-day, than people who stop working altogether, claims a new study.

The study’s authors, whose findings are reported in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 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 Dr. Mo Wang, PhD, of the University of Maryland. “These findings highlight bridge employment’s potential benefits,” the expert added.

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, employment history and work 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 findings showed that people whose post-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 says, this may be 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, Dr. 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 Dr. Wang. “In such situations, it’s difficult for retirees to enjoy the benefits that come with bridge employment.” he added.

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