Researchers at the Institute of Economic Affairs in the U.K. have also recently identified “negative and substantial effects on health from retirement.” Their study found retirement to be associated with a significant increase in clinical depression and a decline in self-assessed health, and that these effects grew larger as the number of years people spent in retirement increased.
Similarly, a study published in 2008 by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that full retirement increased difficulties with mobility and daily activities by 5 percent to 16 percent and, by reducing physical exertion and social interactions, also harmed mental health.
The broader literature on the question of whether retirement harms health has been more mixed. The big question is whether the observed physical deterioration after retirement occurs because it is underlying poor health that leads people to end their working life. Some studies that try to control for this reverse causality, such as a 2007 paper by John Bound of the University of Michigan and Timothy Waidmann of the Urban Institute, find that retirement doesn’t harm health — and may actually improve it. Another study, by Esteban Calvo of the Universidad Diego Portales in Chile, Natalia Sarkisian of Boston College and Christopher Tamborini of the Social Security Administration, finds harm from early retirement but no benefit from delaying retirement beyond the traditional age.