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Retirement transition and well-being

A 16-year longitudinal study

Jorma Seitsamo

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 2007, 65 s. ISBN 9518027331
Bogomtale fra forlaget.

The ageing of the labour force and falling employment rates have forced policy makers in industrialized countries to fi nd means of increasing the well-being of older workers and of lengthening their work careers.
The main objective of this thesis was to study longitudinally how health, functional capacity, subjective well-being, and lifestyle change as people grow older, and what effect retirement has on these factors and on their relationships.
The present study is a follow-up questionnaire study of Finnish municipal workers, conducted in 1981 to 1997 at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. In 1981, a postal questionnaire was sent to 7344 municipal workers in diff erent parts of Finland. The respondents were born between 1923 and 1937. All in all, the age of the study subjects ranged from 45 to 74 years. A total of 6257 persons responded to the first questionnaire (response rate 85.2 %). During the follow-up, 715 persons died and 1725 did not complete the questionnaire at each of the time points required. In the end, a total of 3817 persons had responded to all four (1981, 1985, 1992, 1997) questionnaires. (The response rate was 69% of the living participants who responded to the fi rst questionnaire). Cross-tabulations,
comparison of means, logistic regression analyses and general linear models with repeated measures were used to derive the results.
Th e transition from work life to retirement, and the following years as a pensioner were associated with many changes. Involvement in various activities increased during the transition stage but later decreased to the previous level. Physical exercise was an exception: it became increasingly popular over the years. Perceived health improved markedly from the working stage to the retirement transition stage, even though morbidity increased steadily during the follow-up. On the other hand, functional capacity decreased over the follow-up, especially among those who were occupationally active until the retirement stage.
Subjective well-being remained stable during the follow-up period. Th ere were, however, great diff erences based on the type of work, favouring those whose work had been mental in nature. Th e impact of activity level on maintaining well-being became greater during the follow-up, whereas the eff ect of physical functioning diminished.
Good physical functioning and an active life-style contributed to staying on at work until normal retirement age. Also work-related factors, i.e. possibilities for development and infl uence at work, responsibility for others, meaningful work, and satisfaction with working time arrangements were positively related to continuing working.
The transition from work to retirement had a positive impact on a person’s health. The study results support the view that it should be possible to ease one’s work pace during the last years of a work career. Th is might lower the threshold between work and retirement and convince people that there will still be time to enjoy retirement also a few years later.