If You Want to Live Longer, Keep Working, Study Suggests. Or, You Know, Start a Business After You Retire.

'It may not apply to everybody, but we think work brings people a lot of economic and social benefits that could impact the length of their lives,' researcher says.

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By Lindsay Friedman


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Not retiring anytime soon? A new study suggests that could be a good thing.

The study, conducted by Oregon State University, says working past the age 65 may lead to a longer life. On the flip side, retiring early could be a factor in an earlier death.

After considering demographics, lifestyle and health issues, researchers found those who retired even just a year after turning 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death from any cause.

"It may not apply to everybody, but we think work brings people a lot of economic and social benefits that could impact the length of their lives," says Chenkai Wu, the lead author of the study, in a statement.

Related: What Does Retirement Mean When Aging May Soon Be a Thing of the Past?

Wu, who completed the research as part of his master's thesis, examined data spanning from 1992 to 2010 from the Healthy Retirement Study, a long-term assessment done at The University of Michigan and National Institute on Aging. With more than 12,000 participants, Wu focused on roughly 3,000 people who had retired by 2010.

To help mitigate potential bias based on reasons for retirement, researchers split participants into two groups: healthy and unhealthy retirees. Overall, 12 percent of the healthy participants and 25.6 percent of the unhealthy participants passed away during the study. But those who worked longer in either category were found to have a lower mortality risk. Still, researchers cautioned more work needs to be done to better understand the connection between work and health.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," associate professor and co-author Robert Stawski says in an article about the study on Oregon State's website. "We see the relationship between work and longevity, but we don't know everything about people's lives, health and well-being after retirement that could be influencing their longevity."

The "when to retire" debate has been a source of contention for years. A myriad of studies make various claims on both sides supporting and discrediting the decision to retire early or not.

Related: A First-Time Entrepreneur at 88, Earl Fultz, Now 91, Says His Business Is the Spice of His Life

The Journal of Health Economics published a study in 2013 dissecting the issue.

"Leaving employment may involve reduced stress and greater enjoyment of life, suggesting that early retirement enhances longevity," the study says. "However, it may also lead to reduced mental and physical activity, loss of social networks, and health-adverse habits, suggesting that later retirement may extend expected lifespan."

Without a definitive answer, it may be best to simply make like an entrepreneur and just pick whatever argument best suits your own interests. And even if you choose to retire, that doesn't mean you have to stop working.

After all, success can come at any age. Just look at Charles Flint, who started IBM when he was 61.
Lindsay Friedman

Staff writer. Frequently covers franchise news and food trends.

Lindsay Friedman is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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