Does Working Longer Help You Live Longer?

As expected, the raw data show that Dutch men who worked at ages 62 to 65 were less likely to die over the subsequent five years than men who were not working. A key question is whether the reduction in mortality is only temporary and will occur only during the five-year window studied in this analysis or whether it will put mortality on a permanently lower track.

If the reduction in men’s mortality is only temporary, their remaining life expectancy after age 60 would rise from 21.5 years to 21.7 years, or about two extra months. If, however, the effect on mortality is longer lasting, remaining life expectancy could increase by about two full years.

As countries move to encourage later retirement, one crucial piece of information is still uncertain — whether working longer improves mortality. The simple correlation between working and mortality does suggest a relationship, but it does not imply that work is causing the better outcomes.

“These results require some caveats,” the report concluded. “First, the causal estimates relate to the people who responded to the tax policy by working longer and may not apply to everyone who worked longer. Second, the tax policy takes a ‘carrot’ approach, offering incentives to work longer, rather than the ‘stick’ approach of some U.S. proposals that aim to discourage early retirement by reducing benefits; it is unclear whether a penalty would be more or less effective than a bonus.

“Nonetheless, these results indicate that encouraging some people to work longer may result in longer lives.”

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