Does physical functioning decline after retirement? a longitudinal investigation from 2006 to 2016

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Stephens, C
Alpass, F
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Oxford University Press
The impact of retirement on physical health is an important focus of ageing research. However, research findings are inconclusive. To understand for whom and under what conditions retirement presents health benefits, the present study investigated physical functioning pre- and post-retirement. Using 10-year longitudinal data from the New Zealand Health, Work, & Retirement Study, multiple linear trajectories of physical functioning were estimated. Growth mixture analysis indicated three distinct trajectory profiles. Profile 1 displayed good physical functioning at baseline, which steeply declined until retirement, and continued to decline post-retirement but at a slower rate. Profile 2 was characterized by poor and declining physical functioning pre-retirement. Post-retirement, however, this group reported improvements in physical functioning. Finally, profile 3 displayed good and stable physical functioning pre-retirement and a slow decline post-retirement. Significant differences were identified across profiles in socio-demographic variables. Participants in Profile 1 had the lowest qualification level, medium SES and the highest retirement age. Profile 2 consisted of physical labourers who had a very low SES and numerous chronic illnesses. Members of Profile 3 were highly educated individuals with high SES and a professional occupation prior to retiring. Economic living standards increased post-retirement in all groups. However, the increase in Profile 2 was twice as large compared to the other two groups - an effect that could be attributed to New Zealand’s universal superannuation. In sum, findings indicate that retirement is beneficial for those with poor health and limited resources. For the wealthy and healthy, retirement does not necessarily present health advantages.
Innovation in Aging, 2017, 1 (1), pp. 579 - 579