Medical Tuesday Blog

The Case Against Retirement

May 21

Written by: Del Meyer
05/21/2019 12:05 PM 

Richard W. Johnson writes in the WSJ Mon April 22, 2019: The Case Against Retirement.

Most people look forward to retirement, a reward for decades of hard work. Many people dream of leaving the office as soon as they can. But the evidence suggests a lot of downsides. It may be time to rethink those dreams. But like many other pleasures, it may be bad for your health. It may even kill you.

How can that be? How can working longer be good for your health? But in our rush to leave the office, we don’t realize that retirement also has a downside, especially over the long term. Many retirees indulge in unhealthy behaviors. They become sedentary and watch too much television. They eat too much. They drink too much. They smoke too much. Without the purpose of fulfilling work, retirees can feel adrift and become depressed. Without the camaraderie of their co-workers, retirees risk becoming socially isolated. Without the intellectual stimulation that work can provide, retirement can accelerate cognitive decline.

Dr. Fitzpatrick and Dr. Moore found that men are 2% more likely to die in the month they turn 62 than in the previous month. This mortality surge is driven largely by increases in deaths from lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and risk factors for these conditions include smoking and lack of physical activity—both of which become more common when people retire.

Alice Zulkarnain and Matthew Rutledge at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College concluded that delaying retirement reduced the five-year mortality risk for men in their early 60s by 32%.

Urban Institute has estimated that an additional year of work raises future annual retirement income by 9%, on average.

The good news is that many older Americans are working longer. For much of the second half of the 20th century, the average retirement age for men declined steadily, as expanded employer pensions and the introduction of Medicare and early Social Security benefits made early retirement increasingly affordable. Between 1950 and 1993, the share of 65-year-old men participating in the labor force plunged from 69% to 28%. But the trend then reversed, in response to declines in employer pensions and employer-provided retiree health insurance and changes in Social Security rules. By last year, the participation rate for 65-year-old men had rebounded to 46%.

Read the entire article at

Dr. Johnson is the director of the program on retirement policy at the Urban Institute.
He can be reached at

Chris Farrell: The Case Against Retirement

Financial and demographic developments point toward Americans working into their golden years.
And that’s a good thing. Retirement! Before the 1950s it was something only the wealthy could afford to do. Everyone else needed an income, and most folks struggled to get by in the industrial economy as their faculties deteriorated. . . Read more at . . .

Peter Watson: Retirement: The Case Against

The lure of retirement can be strong – but is it really the paradise that many people think it is? When you give it some thought, you may realise that retirement does not stack up to your own expectations of your golden years.

You will miss the income: You may not miss it at first but the ability to no longer grow your income can be tough as you watch your bank account will grows stagnant. After a few years of being retired, it may become evident that your desire to travel the world is not as easy to make a reality as you thought. You may find yourself looking for work to enhance your shrinking retirement income.

You will get bored: There are many stories of entrepreneurs who sell their businesses, retire and then start looking for a business for sale a few years later, just to renew their sense of purpose. Common problems among retirees include:

  • Losing that structure that you had to your weekdays
  • Losing the sense of accomplishment that work offered you
  • Losing your identity as a person who helped others through your company

It’s not uncommon for business owners to start to look to buy a new business in your retirement – there’s a void in their life that still needs filing. One strong alternative (if possible) is giving yourself a little extra free time every week, transitioning into retirement slowly, rather than suddenly switching to an unfamiliar lifestyle.

The chances in your life can be too dramatic: One way to maintain the life that you are comfortable with is to simply not retire. While it may seem like your work is a personal burden, you never realise how integral it is in helping you to keep your personal affairs in line until you retire. If you are the kind of person who does not adapt well to change, you may find yourself happier by keeping busier. Instead of taking any chances, I believe the best approach (especially for business owners) is not retire at all. You can hire other people to allow you to take a reduced role in your company, but the instability of the global economic markets makes retirement a very unpredictable situation for many years to come. Read more at . . .

Editor’s Note: I closed my office at age 80 after 45 years of a pulmonary practice. The doctor next door was advised by his cardiologist to do the same. My personal physician is turning 80 and he has told me he’s thinking about closing his office. Although we are all of sound mind, a medical generation is considered to be 8-years. After 5 generations, the pace is quickening, and most physicians decide not to be in the midst of rapidly changing pharmaceuticals and technological changes. 

The data suggests life expectancy on retirement and inactivity is about one to five years. Life expectance on progressing to another avocation is seven to ten years. Almost all of my colleagues who entered practice about 1970-75 and are 80, have transitioned to another activity. Since I was editor of Sacramento Medicine and on the editorial board for ten years and have written monthly editorials, columns, Hippocrates & His Kin, Voices of Medicine and book reviews which exceed more than 150 and are posted on my website, ( I decided to spend full time writing. This column has been continuous since 2002.

Since I closed my practice office in 2015, my house was not large enough to accommodate my desktop and my wife’s desktop computers, my extensive library and medical files, I have continued to maintain this small office and work here five days a week, nine hours a day. So far, I have written a book on Total Body Re-Conditioning and started two others. I feel as good as I did at age 65. I look forward to another 20 years as I devote my life to God, profession, family and country. Welcome to my full life and may yours also be so.

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