Photo: Flickr / Marko Rosic
In Marketplace’s latest Freakonomics podcast, economist Steve Dubner highlights a study that shows early retirement could lead to an early grave. Dubner says it’s a silver lining that cash-strapped workers just might need. The workforce is ageing rapidly and by 2020, the Bureau of labour Statistics projects the over-55 sect will make up a quarter of employees.
The stark reality that we may have to delay our plans for round-the-world cruises may hurt, but consumers might wind up adding years to their life expectancy.
When University of Zurich economist Josef Zweimuller studied two similar groups of blue collar workers over time, he found that the group that retired three years earlier had far higher mortality rates.
In fact, for every year of early retirement, they shaved a two months off their lives. Zweimuller and his fellow researchers attributed the trend to decreased mobility, which can lead to depleted cardiovascular and mental health.
But wait a minute: What about all those studies showing workers chained to desks all day are destroying their health?
The Atlantic’s Brian Fung points to research that claims the cubicle lifestyle is wrecking our sleep cycle, adding pounds to our waistlines and increasing our chance of succumbing to chronic killers like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
It might seem like we’re damned if we do or damned if we don’t, but the common thread that seems to keep people healthier longer – whether they’re chained to desks, unemployed or retired – is mobility.
Says Fung: “Not all work is hazardous to your health. Doing your best to maintain reasonable hours and limiting the amount of time you spend sitting seem like decent safeguards. On the bright side, these are variables we enjoy at least some control over. Being unemployed, however, is rarely a path taken willingly. In terms of both number and magnitude, unemployment brings along far greater health risks.”