Retirement brings health gains, with workaholics benefiting the most, research says

People who retire feel less unhealthy than those who continue in employment, and those working long hours benefit the most, new research says.

The British Sociological Association conference in Belfast heard today [Friday, 14 September 2018] that the common idea that retirement leaves workaholics most at risk of poor health was incorrect.

Dr Jacques Wels, of the University of Cambridge, analysed survey data on 2,861 people in England aged 55 to 65 in 2008 and then in 2014. Participants were asked to rate their health on a five-point scale.

Some had retired by 2014 but others had continued working – in 2011 the UK abolished the mandatory retirement ages, so workers are free to decide when they wish to retire.

Dr Wels told the ‘Work, Employment and Society’ event that, overall, 26% of workers who had retired felt less healthy after retirement, and 18% felt healthier.

By comparison, 29% of those who stayed in employment and kept working the same hours felt unhealthier, and 16% felt healthier.

He also found that 21% of those working 60+ hours a week reported better health after retiring, and 22% worse health; 19% of those working 35 hours a week before their retirement reported better health afterwards and 25% worse health; 18% of those working 25 hours reported better health and 26% worse health.

Dr Wels adjusted the raw data in order to compare people with similar wealth, qualifications, gender, age and sector of activity, in order to isolate the effects of retirement and reducing hours.

“Those who retired and who had a high working time prior to retirement were more likely to experience a positive change in self-perceived health compared with those who worked fewer hours before retiring – and this effect was independent of their incomes,” said Dr Wels.

“These findings contradict the common idea that retirement leaves workaholics at a loose end and at risk of poor health because they cannot adjust to their new situation.

“Previous research had not shown up the link between higher self-reported health among those working the most hours.”

For more information, please contact:

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 07964 023392


  1. The research uses longitudinal data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
  2. The British Sociological Association’s Work, Employment and Society conference takes place from 12-14 September 2018 at the Europa Hotel, Belfast.
  3. The British Sociological Association’s charitable aim is to promote sociology. The BSA is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 3890729. Registered Charity Number 1080235