Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Longitudinal and Cross-­national Study of the Effects of Retirement on Health

President's Global Innovation Fund
Ursula M. Staudinger
Discipline: 
Additional locations: 
Beijing, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Amman, Mumbai, Nairobi

Should individuals continue working or retire to optimize their cognitive, functional, and psychological health? This project will explore the health effects of retirement timing throughout the world. Given current policy interest in increasing the retirement age and economic benefits of delaying retirement, it is crucial to develop a better understanding of how retirement timing impacts health in later life.

Principal Investigator

Ursula M. Staudinger
Robert N. Butler Professor for Sociomedical Sciences and Professor of Psychology; Director, Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center

Using panel data from the Health and Retirement Study and sister surveys around the globe, we will test four theory-based hypotheses about these effects—that retirement maximizes health when it happens earlier, later, anytime, or on time. We will employ fixed and random effects regression models with instrumental variables and propensity score matching with bootstrapping to estimate the short-, mid-, and long-term causal effects of retirement timing on health.

This project entails a collaborative effort involving scholars and students at the Columbia Aging Center, the Global Alliance of International Longevity Centers, and the Columbia Global Centers at Beijing, Mumbai, Paris, Rio, and Santiago. We expect to: (i) build a cross-national dataset to continuously test comparative hypotheses about the effects of work-related activity on health in different socio-cultural settings, (ii) strengthen interdisciplinary connections between academics interested on aging, work, and health through research and exchange activities involving at least: co-authorship of three journal articles, participation in three research visits, and dissemination of findings to a broader audience through seminars and media outlets.

Results will help determine how variation in retirement timing affects health of older adults in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe. The international scope and policy implications of this project are well suited to spur international research collaborations, improve our understanding of how government policies affect older people, and ultimately provide advice for social policies suitable to unfold the potential of demographic aging and minimizing its risks.

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