WORK-LIFE BALANCE / NOV. 05, 2013
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The Longer You Work, The longer You Live

U.S. and UK research shows that working till you drop can be good for your health. Keeping a purpose in your life, pursuing a goal and socialising with other people through work – be it paid employment or voluntary work – deters the likelihood of depression and even death.  It is suggested that retiring early can actually cause depression and physical decline.

The findings reveal that retirement should not be viewed as a milestone of a time when you no longer have to work another day in your life, but instead it should signal the beginning of an active and productive new chapter in your life.

A sound mind requires work

New research by INSERM - the French government’s health research agency - confirms that exercising the brain and staying mentally sharp is important in preventing Alzheimer and dementia. Scientist Carole Dufouil comments, “For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2 percent.” This is because working tends to keep people socially connected, physically active and mentally challenged. These are essential elements that help prevent mental decline.  For workers - over the default retire age of 65 - who live alone, work gives them contact with the outside world and helps them maintain human relationships.

US study: Staying active implies higher life expectancy

Even though there is no clear evidence that early retirement leads to a shorter life expectancy, there is overwhelming evidence that suggests the more active you are as you age, the longer you’ll live.

A Shell Oil study of former workers found those who retired at 55 died younger, on average, than those who retired at 65, even when they lived on past 65.  Another study in the Archives of Internal Medicine recently revealed that sitting for prolonged periods of time could likely mean an earlier demise. In a study of 220,000 people, those who sat for more than 8 hours a day had a 15 percent greater chance of dying within the next 3 years than those who only sat for 4 hours each day.

The case of Jeanne Brouillet, a 95 year-old cashier who retired after 45 years of active employment, confirms that retiring late can improve a person’s well being and contribute to longevity. Brouillet started working in 1968 at local Target store in Bloomington, Minn and then moved to other locations where she carried out different roles. The lifelong worker admitted that her longevity is owed to her decision to stay on the job. She says that "If you don't use it you lose it, so I have kept on using it and have enjoyed every minute of it”.

UK study: Retirement may damage your health

A UK study reported that working longer means living healthier. The study - Work Longer, Live Healthier: The Relationship Between Economic Activity, Health And Government Policy suggests that retirement increases the likelihood of suffering from clinical depression by 40 per cent and the chance of having at least one diagnosed physical condition by about 60%.

All in all, the studies underline a positive link between work and health in old age indicating that working longer can have positive sides for one’s health.  Staying active until you age could also mean a longer lifespan and enhanced mental health.  Benjamin Franklin's famous quote reigns true enven today: "It is the working man who is the happy man."

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