In the last 2 weeks 2020health have been holding workshops in various parts of the country to discuss health and work and what councils and Health and Wellbeing Boards can do to encourage healthy workplaces and the return to work for those who are able.
It is generally understood that work is good for health – it helps maintain good mental health by keeping us busy, giving us a purpose, keeping us in contact with a network of colleagues, and it is also closely linked to higher physical health. So what then of retirement – does retirement decrease or increase our health?
The Health Retirement Study, published in Journal of Occupational Health Psychology in 2009 showed that retirees who continued to work after retirement experienced fewer major diseases than those who were fully retired. Complete retirees also had more major diseases when compared with those who did not retire at all. However other studies have suggested that for some people their health benefits from retirement. This may be the difference between ‘good work’ and ‘bad work’, or may be related to social norms and what people expect from their life.
This year the default retirement age has been phased out, giving more flexibility to people to chose when they retire. Most will continue working until they are eligible to receive their pension, and many will hope to work for longer. Currently the State Pension age for both men and women is due to reach 66 by April 2020 and 68 by 2046 but this increase may be sped up given the decreasing funds available for pensions.
Whilst many people are opposed to the idea of having to work for longer, this may be beneficial for those who are healthy enough to do so. We should consider a staggered retirement, with more flexibility where possible for people to decrease their working hours gradually. In some sectors a change to an advisory position or a voluntary sector role may be possible.
Whilst the options need to be explored, the days of a default retirement at 65 are now over. This needs to be considered in the context of the work and health debate. If employees are continuing to work as their health begins to decline employees will need more support available for these people. In addition companies may wish to consider what they can do to promote the health of their employees, thus enabling them to stay with the company for longer.