By CHRISTOPHER FARRELL MARCH 3, 2017
Are there health benefits to staying in the work force longer?
The scientific research is inconclusive, though it tends to tilt toward “yes.” This is particularly pronounced among people who find work fulfilling in the first place, who tend to be office workers, teachers and others whose workplace is not, say, a factory or a construction site.
More so than people in most previous generations, baby boomers are continuing to work past their early 60s, often well beyond. Sometimes, this means delaying retirement from a longtime job, but it can instead involve some kind of bridge job, part-time employment or self-employment. It turns out that, these days, older Americans who retire — in the sense of completely withdrawing from the paid labor force — are increasingly in the minority.
“What is the benefit of work? Activation of the brain and activation of social networks may be critical,” Nicole Maestas, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, said in an interview.
Researchers have long assumed that only well-educated and healthier people benefit from working after a certain age. Lately, however, scholars and retirees themselves have been exploring an intriguing question with implications for both potential workers and policy makers: Is a job a force for keeping older people mentally and physically healthy?