Retirement at 62 Boosts Well-Being

Physical and emotional benefits to retiring on the early side.

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By Bruce Bower, Science News

ATLANTA—People who retire at or near age 62 receive a welcome but somewhat surprising benefit — a greater relative increase in physical and emotional well-being than those who retire at earlier or later ages, Esteban Calvo of Boston College reported August 15 at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Intriguingly, that’s the age at which U.S. citizens become eligible to receive partial Social Security benefits, Calvo noted. Retirements that occur at culturally and institutionally expected ages yield large dividends in well-being, he suggested.

“This isn’t good news for the Social Security Administration,” Calvo said. Officials there would prefer aging baby boomers to pay into Social Security until at least age 67, when full benefits kick in, he noted.

Calvo and his colleagues analyzed survey data from a national sample of 5,395 individuals tracked from their 50s into their late 60s. A majority retired during a narrow window around age 62.

Members of that group reported substantial improvements in how they felt physically and emotionally in the years after retiring, with few symptoms of depression. Retirement at age 62 heralded well-being surges regardless of participants’ health and depression symptoms before leaving the work force and whether or not they retired willingly.

These signs of general well-being took a progressively sharper turn for the worse in participants who retired at increasingly earlier or later ages.

Calvo’s group plans to examine next whether these findings apply to members of specific job categories, such as blue-collar and white-collar workers.

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