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Retirement May Do a Mind Good

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers may have spotted another benefit from retirement: reductions in tiredness and depression.

The Swedish team analyzed data from more than 11,000 men and almost 2,900 women in France who were surveyed for seven years before and seven years after they retired. Most (72 percent) retired between the ages of 53 and 57 and all were retired by the age of 64.

In the year before retirement, 25 percent of the participants suffered from depression and 7 percent were diagnosed with one or more of the following conditions: diabetes, respiratory disease, heart disease or stroke.

After retirement, there was a substantial decrease in mental and physical fatigue, and a smaller but significant decrease in depression. However, rates of chronic diseases did not decrease after retirement and gradually increased with age, as expected, according to Hugo Westerlund, an associate professor of psychology at the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University in Sweden, and colleagues.

The researchers wrote that "if work is tiring for many older workers, the decrease in fatigue could simply reflect removal of the source of the problem . . . furthermore, retirement may allow people more time to engage in stimulating and restorative activities, such as physical exercise."

The study authors concluded that their findings "indicate that fatigue may be an underlying reason for early exit from the labor market and decreased productivity, and redesign of work, health care interventions or both may be necessary to enable a larger proportion of older people to work in full health."

The study is published in the Nov. 24 online edition of BMJ.

Noting that the findings contradict other studies, Alex Burdorf, a professor in the determinants of public health in the Netherlands, says in an accompanying editorial that without further research, it is too early "to make definite claims about positive and negative benefits from retirement at a particular age.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about health and retirement.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Nov. 23, 2010

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