Flexible working could benefit older people’s health

Part-time working may be beneficial for people approaching retirement, says a researcher, who has found that early retirement has a significant impact on mental health.

Part-time working may be beneficial for people approaching retirement, says a researcher, who has found that early retirement has a significant impact on mental health.

Dr Hugo Westerlund at Stockholm University is lead researcher of a study of over 14,000 employees for France’s national grid, published in the British Medical Journal. It shows retiring at 55 significantly reduces stress and fatigue, although it has no impact on physical health.

The study followed the health of the French employees over a 15-year period that covered the period before and after the workers decided to take up early retirement.

The year before they retired, 25% of workers had suffered from depressive symptoms and around 10% had a medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease.

After they retired, there was a big drop in mental and physical fatigue and a smaller but significant reduction in depressive symptoms.

Dr Westerlund told the BBC: "What this research tells us is that we need to do something about the working life itself and change it to accommodate older people if they are to work for longer and in good health."  This could include part-time working.

The research and other studies on retirement and health could have implications for those promoting flexible working as a way of managing different ages and stages in a person’s career.

The UK government plans to get rid of the default retirement age of 65 from October 2011.





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