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Retire later, live longer

October 31, 2005|Emily Singer | Special to The Times

AN early retirement spent sailing the Caribbean while sipping margaritas may be fun, but it probably won't help you live longer. New research suggests that a speedy exit from the daily grind doesn't increase life span -- and may even shorten it.

Many think that retiring early will boost their longevity, but there is scant scientific support for that claim. So researchers at Shell Health Services, a division of Shell Oil Co. in Texas, studied 3,500 employees who worked for Shell from 1973 to 2003. They found that people who retired at age 55 actually died slightly younger than those who stayed working until 60 or 65.

The drop in longevity was partly due to preexisting medical problems that may have led people to retire early. But the survival rate for the retire-at-55 group was still lower than that of older retirees when scientists compared just those who lived past 65, thus excluding those who died soon after retirement.

The study was published Oct. 20 in the British Medical Journal. "We should not fear working into our later years for any health-related reason," the authors wrote in a statement.

Gerontology research suggests "you use it or lose it," says John Rother of the American Assn. of Retired Persons. "People who stay active and involved and engaged will stay healthier and more satisfied -- many people do this through work."

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