Retirement… sweet retirement.

Retirement is a fascinating area of discussion for its population health implications. The culmination of a life of experience both inside and outside of the formal workplace, retirement represents a critical life transition. It is both determined by and a determinant of health. Socioeconomic status also dictates the timing and terms of our retirement — key determinants being whether we have personally accrued enough economic resources to maintain an acceptable standard of living (including health), and whether or not social supports (including availability of health care) are available to allow retirement. For those of you interested in a research career, the Health and Retirement Study has served as an excellent source of data on this topic.

A PHS 795 student found this excellent discussion of the interaction between SES, health and retirement.  They write:

  Cheryl Sullivan, and Corliss Fanjoy, work at Erda Handbags, a company that has made accommodations for its aging workforce. When Retiring Early Is Not a Choice

Both job prospects and health are increasingly tilted in favor of those who are relatively high on the ladder.

This article discusses the implications of health on the ability to retire early. As several articles we have read discussed, those with the lowest SES in our population often are faced with worse health outcomes. Working longer would provide more necessary income from Social Security, but due to their poor health, those that most desperately need this money do not have the luxury of pushing back their retirement. I thought this was a difficult situation that shows the struggle of poverty and health in a real-life application. In addition, it demonstrates the lack of policy action to address the issue, which is a problem we are also learning more about as we continue our public health studies. Here is a link to the original study as well:





5 thoughts on “Retirement… sweet retirement.

  1. As someone who is in the midst of watching her parents retire and seeing the affect it has on their health, I think this topic is very interesting. The factors that affect people’s retirement experiences are easy to overlook for those in positions of privilege. However, I think this article also presents an interesting opportunity for our health care system. I have seen my father become more fit, more active, happier, and healthier overall after retiring because he is no longer spending the majority of his day behind a desk and has time to implement, and commit to, healthier choices as his norm. For those whose poor health is preventing them from continuing to work, our system should incorporate a period of temporary retirement (of sorts)–an extended period of time off work for individuals to improve their health and reach a point where they will be able to sustain that level of health after beginning work again. If a wide spread program like this were able to be implemented, where they are given financial support during this time, (the key here is making it a temporary situation, as disability benefits generally becomes a life long situation) not only would we be able to improve the health of our population overall but we could also be able to extend the working/financial capacity of our population. By intervening earlier, we can hopefully help people before they reach a point of needing assistance for the rest of their lives and/or no longer be able to add to the productivity of the community. Granted, this is contingent on many other factors within our society (such as how employers respond). I’m not saying it would necessarily be an easy program to implement, but I do think it’s an interesting idea.


  2. This was a very interesting article, thank you for sharing. This seems like a rather difficult problem to address because, as the article mentions, educational attainment is a good early indicator of retirement readiness. So, how can you address something now that has its roots so early in life? Perhaps a 2 pronged approach would work. The root causes of SES and education obviously need to be addressed, but that is no secret to the Public Health community. Health disparities among people with different SES is big and growing, so we must continue to address those. I believe that improving public schools across the country is one of the best ways to help close this gap. In the short term, however, I think making financial services and advising cheap/free and readily available would help many communities, especially the poorest ones.

    This article is a great example of how simple it is to identify public health concerns, but how difficult it is to address them realistically.


  3. The linkage between retirement and health certainly is an interesting one. However, it seems to be rooted in the status quo and I believe that it is vital to question the underlying assumptions surrounding retirement.

    Take for example the assumption given in the article that ‘readiness’ for retirement is defined as “having enough income in retirement to retain one’s pre-retirement life style.” To me this definition is circular since it requires people work hard to get money that they can then use one day to escape from working hard but still have money. Rather than focusing on the holes in the bucket (lifestyle choices and expenses), this definition only focuses on the stream of water flowing into it (salary). Is the ability to continue being able to afford a new iPhone every year, a big screen TV with cable subscription, a vehicle lease, an oversized home, or any other expense that makes up one’s pre-retirement lifestyle really the metric we want to use while defining ‘readiness for retirement’? Such a definition seems to claim that a retired individual couldn’t survive on less resources than they did while working. Doesn’t this definition seem to conveniently forget the very idea of disposable income?

    Clearly I am making a broad argument here in an effort to provide a simple basis for my point, but I feel the defeasibility of this basis does not invalidate my primary argument – That we should re-evaluate our most basic assumptions surrounding what it means to be ready to retire.

    What health benefits could be gained through educational efforts focused on curbing consumerism during retirement to more sustainable levels? Or training effects on how to have a modest living? Or even societal emphasis on the smart management of money? Could we perhaps save net costs by instituting a guaranteed basic income so that individuals would not feel the need to work themselves to death in pursuit of a golden age of retirement homes, wheelchairs, bingo, and drug management schedules? Focusing solely on maintaining a level of spending during retirement, without regard to the quality/quantity/sensibility of that spending reduces individuals to nothing more than dehumanized gears in an system rather than people with lives that should be lived.


  4. Reading this article was interesting and had me considering family members who have retired or will be soon. My thoughts were similar to Ian Ryan’s in that educational achievement is an indicator of preparedness for retirement. Improving the education system is vital to mitigating the risks for individuals in underserved communities. And because so many outcomes are related to SES factors and educational attainment, addressing these issues upstream will be the most beneficial. Of course, more resources are always needed. But having a program in place that could serve as a safety net for individuals downstream is also paramount in considering this issue. Kerry described a system where health care could incorporate temporary retirement plans where workers could take time to improve their health and become ready to work again. I fully support and agree with this notion because it takes into account the downstream factors and looks to provide a real, measurable fix. There is no easy solution or policy to address retirement problems for underserved individuals. However, a policy combination that tackles both the upstream and downstream factors will serve as a good starting point to change the status quo.


  5. I read this article a month or so ago and almost posted it, I’m glad you did!
    Retirement by itself is an extremely interesting topic to look into. Not only does educational achievement have a lot to do with one’s future potential to retire (as was mentioned several times before me) but opportunities for supportive employment also have a great deal to do with one’s future ability to retire. Regardless of education, the business world that we operate in provides some people with substantial personal benefits, while others, even if earning the same wage, offer little to nothing at all. Because of the way our social security system works, different from systems in Europe, for example, we rely on the ‘grace’ of private industries and individual companies to help us subsidize our own savings and some people are given more opportunity to reach those companies than others, starting far earlier than their entry into the work force.
    The health component of this article is compelling when looking at what effect retirement has on it, but I implore all of us to look at other factors, such as professional opportunities, or lack thereof, that go hand-in-hand with the educational and other neighborhood or SES factors that make up one’s retirement potential and health potential, respectively. Our systems are far more complex than simple access to recreational time or individual ability to save for one’s ‘luxury retirement’ – we need to look beyond even SES for an issue like this.


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