Retirement may be the answer for aging workers who suffer from depression and fatigue. A longitudinal study of French workers implied that retirement reduces the severity of depressive symptoms and fatigue, especially among workers with chronic diseases. This study only pertained to individuals who retired by choice, not due to health concerns.
Data was collected from employees of the French national gas and electric company. The health status of 14,104 male and female employees who retired between 1990 and 2006 was followed seven years before and seven years after retirement. The employees completed annual questionnaires concerning the onset and continuance of physical illnesses, mental disorders, and physical and mental fatigue. The gender, age, marital status and occupational level of the employees were also taken into account to determine if other factors, besides retirement, influenced the occurrence of mental and physical illness.
The prevalence of physical diseases such as diabetes, and respiratory and cardiovascular disease did not decrease with retirement. In fact, the occurrence of these diseases increased steadily with age. However, there was a significant decrease in depression symptoms, and mental and physical fatigue in the years following retirement. Reduction in mental fatigue was larger in males, employees who retired at 55 years of age or younger, and employees married or living with a partner. Reduction in physical fatigue was larger among females and employees that retired before the age of 55. Comprehensively, employees who suffered from chronic illness had the highest reduction in mental and physical fatigue. There were no substantial differences between occupational levels.
The major limitation of this study is the narrow focus on employees who receive considerably flexible retirement options. A policy passed by the French government in the 1990s determines retirement eligibility based upon multiple factors, such as familial status, occupation type, and working years, which allows some employees to retire early. In this study, 72 percent of the employees had retired between the ages of 53 and 57. Therefore, these results may not completely apply to employees in countries that enforce higher retirement ages. However, a study conducted in the United States also showed improved mental health among employees who retired in their 60s.
These studies may emphasize the universal health benefits of retirement, but further research is necessary to counteract the negative impact that can result from early retirement.