(Non-ME/CFS study) Retirement reduced physical & mental fatigue and depression


Senior Member
We often hear it said that work is good for you. And it is perhaps insinuated that if we were sitting around less we might feel better.

I'm not saying this is particularly exciting but I thought I'd throw it out:

Free full text at: http://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c6149.full

Press Release:

Retirement reduces tiredness and depression

(Research: Effect of retirement on major chronic conditions and fatigue: French GAZEL occupational cohort study)

(Editorial: Is early retirement good for your health?)

Retirement leads to a substantial reduction in mental and physical fatigue and depressive symptoms, finds a study published on bmj.com today. However, the research also concludes that retirement does not change the risk of major chronic illnesses such as respiratory disease, diabetes and heart disease.

The authors, led by Dr Hugo Westerlund from Stockholm University, say their research findings have important implications given that people will be working for longer and retiring later in life.

Retirement is a major life transition, says the study. But the results of various studies investigating the health effects of retirement have been inconsistent with some suggesting a beneficial effect and others concluding the reverse.

This large scale population based study is ground-breaking as it observes participants for a long period of time (15 years) and for 7 years prior to retirement and 7 years post retirement. The research is based on almost 190,000 observation years.

The participants were drawn from a large French cohort study and included 11,246 men and 2,858 women who were surveyed annually from 1989 to 2007. The researchers argue that "a major strength of this study is that it is based on repeated yearly measurements over an extended time period."

Most participants were married (89%) and belonged to higher or middle employment grades. They all retired on a statutory basis - 72% between the ages of 53 and 57 inclusive - and all participants had retired by the age of 64. In the year before retirement, one in four (25%) participants had suffered from depressive symptoms and 728 (7%) were diagnosed with one or more of the following: respiratory disease, diabetes, heart disease or stroke.

Unmarried respondents and those in low employment grades had higher odds of physical (but not mental) fatigue.

The results show that retirement is linked with a substantial decrease in both mental and physical fatigue, with a smaller but significant decrease in depressive symptoms. However, the research also shows there is no association between retirement and chronic disease. As expected, say the authors, these diseases gradually increased with age.

The authors believe there are a number of explanations for the findings: "if work is tiring for many older workers, the decrease in fatigue could simply reflect removal of the source of the problem ... furthermore, retirement may allow people more time to engage in stimulating and restorative activities, such as physical exercise," they write.

They conclude that their research results "indicate that fatigue may be an underlying reason for early exit from the labour market and decreased productivity, and redesign of work, healthcare interventions or both may be necessary to enable a larger proportion of older people to work in full health."

In an accompanying editorial, Alex Burdorf, a professor in the determinants of public health in the Netherlands, says the study "is unique in that annual health measurements were carried out several years before and after retirement."

Burdorf believes further research is needed to corroborate the findings as they contradict other studies and says "it is too early to make definite claims about positive and negative benefits from retirement at a particular age." The author agrees, however, that efforts are needed to improve and adapt working conditions "to help elderly workers maintain good health."

Research: Dr Hugo Westerlund, Associate Professor of Psychology, Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Sweden

Email: hugo.westerlund@stress.su.se

Editorial: Alex Burdorf, Professor in determinants of public health, Department of Public Health, Eramus MC, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Email: a.burdorf@erasmusmc.nl
BMJ 2010; 341:c6149 doi: 10.1136/bmj.c6149 (Published 23 November 2010)
Cite this as: BMJ 2010; 341:c6149


Effect of retirement on major chronic conditions and fatigue: French GAZEL occupational cohort study

Hugo Westerlund, associate professor of psychology12, Jussi Vahtera, professor of public health34, Jane E Ferrie, senior research fellow2, Archana Singh-Manoux, research director25, Jaana Pentti, statistician3, Maria Melchior, senior researcher5, Constanze Leineweber, researcher1, Markus Jokela, senior research fellow2, Johannes Siegrist, professor of medical sociology6, Marcel Goldberg, professor of epidemiology5, Marie Zins, senior researcher5, Mika Kivimki, professor of social epidemiology23
+ Author Affiliations

1Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
2Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
3Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, FI-00250 Helsinki, Finland
4Department of Public Health, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, FI-20520 Turku, Finland
5INSERM, U1018, Villejuif, F-94807, France; Universit Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines, France
6Institut fr Medizinische Soziologie, Heinrich Heine-Universitt Dsseldorf, D-40001 Dsseldorf, Germany

Correspondence to: H Westerlund hugo.westerlund@stress.su.se

Accepted 8 September 2010

To determine, using longitudinal analyses, if retirement is followed by a change in the risk of incident chronic diseases, depressive symptoms, and fatigue.

Prospective study with repeat measures from 7 years before to 7 years after retirement.

Large French occupational cohort (the GAZEL study), 1989-2007.

11 246 men and 2858 women.

Main outcome measures
Respiratory disease, diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, mental fatigue, and physical fatigue, measured annually by self report over the 15 year observation period; depressive symptoms measured at four time points.

The average number of repeat measurements per participant was 12.1. Repeated measures logistic regression with generalised estimating equations showed that the cumulative prevalence of self reported respiratory disease, diabetes, and coronary heart disease and stroke increased with age, with no break in the trend around retirement. In contrast, retirement was associated with a substantial decrease in the prevalence of both mental fatigue (odds ratio for fatigue one year after versus one year before retirement 0.19, 95% confidence interval 0.18 to 0.21) and physical fatigue (0.27, 0.26 to 0.30). A major decrease was also observed in depressive symptoms (0.60, 0.53 to 0.67). The decrease in fatigue around retirement was more pronounced among people with a chronic disease before retirement.

Conclusions Longitudinal modelling of repeat data showed that retirement did not change the risk of major chronic diseases but was associated with a substantial reduction in mental and physical fatigue and depressive symptoms, particularly among people with chronic diseases.


Senior Member
I always hear anacdotes about people getting ill/dying soon after retirement. Maybe that's just because they're old, and then others relate it to them doing less as a way of providing some meaining or rationale for it?

(Or maybe this papers wrong.)


Senior Member
I always hear anacdotes about people getting ill/dying soon after retirement. Maybe that's just because they're old, and then others relate it to them doing less as a way of providing some meaining or rationale for it?
Yes. It *might* be selective evidence. Some people have got into a rhythm of working and would prefer to either keep working or that their spouse would keep working and so "collect" evidence that supports the evidence.

A similar thing might be the phenomenon that claimed that people can live on for a particular event. I remember reading a study that found, with the data they had, there was no evidence for that.