Punching a time clock is still part of the regular routine for an increasing number of older adults. They’re staying employed or going back to work, even though they’re beyond the traditional retirement age 65.

Why are we working later in life?

There are many reasons why people are working longer, and some have to do with health. For example:

Life expectancy has improved and people in their 60s are in better health today that they were 50 years ago.

Jobs require less physical work.

As people live longer, they might have to extend their working lives so they can support themselves.

The projection for 2024 is that 36% of people ages 65 to 69 will be in the labor force, far more than the 22% who were working in 1994.

Good for health

There’s increasing evidence that the payoff of working past age 65 may go beyond income. Some studies have linked working past retirement with better health and longevity.

Other studies have linked working past retirement age with a reduced risk of dementia and heart attack.

Not always good for health

Working past retirement age might not be beneficial to health for everyone, however. For example:

Suffering stress on the job has long been recognized as a risk factor for coronary artery disease and stroke.

If your job is physically demanding, you may have an increased risk of injury.

It’s not surprising, then, that a number of studies have found health benefits to retiring, including a substantial reduction in mental and physical fatigue and depressive symptoms.

A mixed bag

The fact is, scientists have found mixed results when they’ve studied the effect of working past retirement. “Some studies find less of a benefit, no benefit, or maybe even harm. On balance they tend toward the positive,” says Nicole Maestas, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.

But she also points out that the mixed findings indicate the health benefits of working simply depend on the individual and his or her circumstances.

– Harvard Health Publishing

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