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University of Missouri

Be Well — Work Forever

Research shows retirees’ health suffers after first leaving the workforce.

female retiree

Retirees experience a big drop in how healthy they feel just after leaving the workforce, according to new research by MU Social Work Assistant Professor Angela Curl. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

Despite the extra rest and relaxation, recent retirees on average actually feel worse after leaving the daily grind. MU Assistant Professor of Social Work Angela Curl reached that surprising conclusion after analyzing 18 years of survey data tracking respondents’ health before and after retirement. “Continued employment is a health benefit,” Curl says. She guesses that the routine and socializing of work have something to do with it. She’s currently researching if it can be replicated in retirement. The survey data show that, on a scale of 1 to 5, and controlling for other factors, people reported nearly a full point decline in how healthy they felt immediately following retirement. The survey also found that health inches up when a person’s spouse retires, though Curl says husbands see greater short‐term gains than wives. She is submitting her results to the Research on Aging journal.