Long-term health effects of extending working life: Effects of raising lower and upper pension eligibility ages on health and health inequalities in late-life.

PI: Carin Lennartsson, carin.lennartsson@ki.se

Population ageing is placing pressure on the funding of welfare systems. One strategy used by policy-makers to finance health and old-age care is to raise the effective retirement age. Nevertheless, reforms that seek to extend working lives may have unintended adverse effects on health and health inequalities in old age. In this project, we aim to study the likely long-term effects that two related reforms – raising the lower age of eligibility for state pensions from 61 years and raising the “upper” mandatory retirement age of 67 years – have on cognitive and physical functioning around age 80 and late-life mortality, focusing on inequalities by socioeconomic position and gender.

We consider three hypotheses on retirement and subsequent health: the psychosocial-environmental (stresses the negative aspects of work), the psychosocial-materialist (suggests benefits from working longer), and the cultural-institutional (stresses the importance of retirement taking place within the “socially accepted” time-window). We believe that these three hypotheses might all be true but for different socioeconomic groups and gender.

The availability of unique long-term nationally representative longitudinal, cross-cohort and register data enables us to analyze these hypotheses. We use a causal inference approach to address the problem of non-random selection into retirement, mainly due to poor health.

Our project bridges a gap in current knowledge by investigating the long-term effects of prolonged working life on cognitive and physical functioning around age 80 and late-life mortality, and whether these effects differ by socioeconomic position and gender. Four scientific publications will be prepared and the results will be transferred beyond the research community by seminars and articles prepared for the public and policy-makers. Throughout the project we will have discussions with relevant organizations regarding the implications of the findings.

The project is funded by a grant from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE).