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Working Past Retirement Benefits Your Health, Study Says


Working beyond the typical retirement age is good for one's nest egg and for one's health. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: Keeping active, both physically and mentally, is important at any age. But how important? That's what researchers from Oregon State University wanted to know. They analyzed data from a large ongoing study of people 50 years old and older. Psychologist Robert Stawski.

ROBERT STAWSKI: What we found was that healthy adults who retired past the age of 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes.

NEIGHMOND: Even those who said they were unhealthy were also likely to live longer if they kept working. And that was in any type of job - white-collar, blue-collar or in the service industry. Stawski says it's likely the various interactions that are a part of work are key.

STAWSKI: Thinking, problem solving, cognitive faculties, social and interpersonal engagement - so you have relationships that you've formed with co-workers, both personally and professionally.

MADDY DYCHTWALD: It's almost as if work and retirement can be a kind of antidote to aging.

NEIGHMOND: Maddy Dychtwald co-founded the research group Age Wave. And in a recent study, she found the majority of Americans say they plan to work well beyond retirement age, and not just for the money. Some say they love what they do and want to keep doing it. Others want to contribute.

DYCHTWALD: And generally those are people who are motivated to work, to give back to society. So they're oftentimes doing something that was either a hobby or an interest earlier in their life, or it's a brand-new pursuit.

NEIGHMOND: In fact, Dychtwald says the majority of successful entrepreneurs aren't those 20-something high-tech pioneers, but older people in their 50s and 60s. Another reason people said they decided to keep working was to maintain a balance in life, keeping up professional connections and friendships. Psychologist Robert Stawski says it probably doesn't matter what kind of work you do, whether it's paid or volunteer, as long as you maintain engagement physically, mentally and socially. Patti Neighmond, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Award-winning journalist Patti Neighmond is NPR's health policy correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.