31 Aug 2013

Effects Of Retirement On Health

Simply put, retirement happens when one gets old and being old means that lifestyle choices catch up with one, says the BBC News. WINIFRED OGBEBO reports on the health implications of retirement and how to keep the aging brain ‘alive’.

For some retired folks, it may not be a laughing matter.  Retirement is like old age: both come with their bags and baggage. Both come with their health problems with a detrimental impact on mental and physical health, says a new study.

The study, published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a think tank, found that retirement results in a “drastic decline in health” in the medium and long term.

The IEA said the study suggests people should work  longer for health as well as economic reasons.

 According to BBC News, the study, which was published in conjunction with the Age Endeavour Fellowship, a charity organisation, compared retired people with those who had continued working past retirement age, and took into account, possible confounding factors.

Philip Booth, programme director at the IEA, said working longer will not only be an economic necessity, it also helps people live healthier lives.

The study suggests there is a small boost to health immediately after retirement, before a significant decline in the longer term.

Retirement is found to increase the chances of suffering from clinical depression by 40 per cent, while you are 60 per cent more likely to suffer from a physical condition.

The effect is the same for men and women, while the chances of becoming ill appear to increase with the length of time spent in retirement.

 A consultant neurosurgeon, Dr Biodun Ogungbo said, “Many people have always wondered why illnesses suddenly appear to befall people who have worked hard all their lives, at the exact time they want to relax and take their feet off the pedal. Strokes, heart attacks and cancer are common in retirees.

“It does seem that serious efforts need to be made by retirees when they are young and before retirement, to avoid many of the health issues. Whilst most of the concerns often lie with the physical appearance, one should also be aware of how ageing affects one’s bodies inside and how that can manifest as one gets older.”

According to Ogungbo, going into retirement whilst still very young and stopping work suddenly, is not advisable. Overall, a study suggests some health benefits for people who keep working beyond the age of 58.  One needs to keep the brain engaged in retirement.

The consultant neurosurgeon analyses some of the health risks associated with retirement

Dangers ahead

Brain cells die with ageing or get damaged which can lead to conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or some other kind of dementia- related condition. Some elderly people are also particularly vulnerable to other kinds of mental illness such as anxiety, depression and even schizophrenia.

Diabetes is another condition that is more likely to manifest itself when you are older and this can be caused by a number of factors relating to high cholesterol, obesity, diet, heredity, lack of physical exercise, lifestyle, e.g smoking and emotional stress.

Cancer is also predominantly a disease of old age. Three out of five cancers occur in people aged 65 and over, while more than a third are diagnosed in the over-75s.

These are just some of the conditions which are more likely to affect older people - and which can therefore affect retirement.

Early Retirement = Earlier Death?

The link between early retirement and early death was greater for men. In fact, men  who retired at 55 had an 80 per cent greater increase risk than women who retired at 55. People who retired at 60 were no different than people who retired at age 65, in terms of overall risk of death.

Cancel your retirement?

What about just not retiring ever? There are regions where people are healthy and active well into old age. In these places, it is not uncommon for a 90-year old to be walking several miles a day, helping with the garden and taking care of great-grandchildren. People seem to age well in places such as Okinawa in Japan. In these regions, the idea of retirement just doesn’t exist. People stay active into their very old age. Basically they go, go, go and then pass away.

Well elderly

Britain’s oldest student recently graduated from university aged 91- and is still planning to go on and do a PhD. Bertie Gladwin, 91, said that he had “a lot of laughs” with students less than a third of his age. Bertie, a former civil servant graduated with distinction in Masters in intelligence history, despite him being more than 60 years older than his course mates.

Similarly, my father does not know his age. But, he knows he is about or over 80 years of age. The most important aspect of his life however, is good health and an absence of any serious disease. Mr Olowookere, 90, is one of my patients and he has had a few health challenges. He walks into my office slowly but engages me in bright and stimulating conversation. Actually, talking to him enriches me.

They are some of the few, very lucky, well, elderly people in Nigeria who are living to a ripe old age and in relative good health. These are the “wellderly” according to the Independent On Sunday newspaper.

Work hard

 “Work is good for you, especially after you’ve retired,” says the Daily Mail. The newspaper and others report that workers who stop working suddenly the moment they reach retirement age are at greater risk of heart attacks, cancer and other major diseases than those who ease their way into old age by taking a part-time job. Part-time work in jobs related to previous careers was also better for mental health than “full” retirement.

How to have a healthy retirement

All this discussion about retirement and health is arbitrary. What matters for your health is what you are doing to your body and mind. If you retire and sit around all day, your health will deteriorate. If you retire and hit the gym while eating tons of fruits and vegetables, your health will improve. People who are working can have terrible health if they sit around all day and stress out, so forget about whether retirement is healthy or not -- look at your daily habits and decide which ones need some improvement. The researchers say that their findings highlight the “health benefits of engaging in bridge employment for retirees.”

Did you get it?

It might be worth keeping yourself and your brain engaged in retirement. This may actually keep illness away and allow you to enjoy retirement in relative peace and out of hospital.

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