The Canadian Source Of Employee Pension Fund Investment And Benefits Plan Management

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August 2007

Retirement: Is It Good For Your Employee's Health?

By: Caroline Tapp-McDougall

It seems like everyone daydreams or makes jokes about retirement, especially these days with the aging demographic on the upswing and the first wave of baby boomers (who are now in their early 60s) realizing retirement is but a few years away.

For boomers, leaving work will be an experience unlike that of their parents. Boomers will be a bit more carefree and adventurous. They’ll be looking for more interesting things to do, opportunities to learn, and will be more focused on their health and wellness than previous generations. But will retirement, and all the possibilities it brings, really be just a carefree joy ride into the sunset?

The Health Factor

So why and when do most people leave work? A U.S. report on health and retirement suggests that poor health is a far stronger influence than financial factors on a person’s decision to retire. In a group of 55- to 59-year-olds who opted to exit the workforce, one-third left work for health reasons.

Interestingly, depression is one of the fastest growing reasons for early retirement. People with depression access their pensions and retire on average 1.5 years earlier than those without the condition, says a recent article in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

But mental health isn’t all that boomers will be thinking about. As they reach retirement age, almost 50 per cent will have arthritis or rheumatism, 42 per cent will have high blood pressure, and 20 per cent will have back problems, reports Statistics Canada. Allergies, cataracts, heart disease, diabetes, and incontinence may also limit boomers’ future retirement plans.

Understanding Motives

So what do all these facts, numbers, and statistics mean to human resource (HR) professionals?

You may already know that current employees worry about retirement –sometimes to the point where it can seriously affect daily performance and health. In a study by Prudential, 19 per cent of workers were nervous about what the future held for them. And a full 22 per cent felt depressed about the prospect of giving up their jobs. These effects are likely magnified when an employee has a retired spouse at home, particularly if he or she left work due to poor health.

As well, the reasons why and how older employees return to work varies by gender. A Cornell University study says men who return to work do so because they want to, they like the socialization that the workplace offers, or they enjoy the accomplishments and satisfaction levels acquired through work. Women rejoin usually because of financial reasons, and they are more likely to be depressed or unhappy about their situation.

retirement health

Five Ways To Prevent Workplace Stress

For the next 20 years or so, more baby boomers will leave work. To support these employees while they plan and as they are transitioning, employers will benefit by understanding and communicating these messages:

Caroline Tapp-McDougallSimply put, retirement can be more successful if it’s planned for and entered into with an attitude of flexibility, understanding, and learning for all those concerned. This way, workplace productivity will remain high and health issues will be less influential and better managed.

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