Friday, May 12, 2006

Working Longer: Does it Help People Be Healthier, Happier?

Esteban Calvo, a graduate student in Sociology at Boston College and a graduate research assistant at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, has published a paper--"Does Working Longer Make People Healthier and Happier?"--that suggests that longer working lives will help most people maintain their overall well-being. The paper addresses the impact of late-life paid work on physical and psychological well-being, and it includes a review of the literature on work at older ages and elderly well-being.
While working longer seems beneficial for most people, it will likely have negative consequences for some. The type of job seems to be a critical factor. Undesirable jobs can wash out the potential favorable effects of work. Another critical factor is the opportunity to continue working. Older workers may be willing to prolong paid work, but, in order to find a job, they need to be able to work and have a real demand for their labor.
Calvo also suggests some areas for future research. In particular, since an increase in the early retirement age reduces the ability of people to voluntarily decide their labor force participation, he wonders whether less control in the work/retirement decision could have an adverse impact on the well-being of older individuals. Also, he notes that variations in the benefits of work as people move through their 60s should be examined--even though work at older ages seems beneficial for many, the benefits may decrease, or stop increasing, after a certain age or amount of time worked per year.

Source: Issues in Brief No. 2 Boston College Center for Retirement Research (February 2006)

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