Is Retirement Killing Men?

'Large changes' trigger unhealthy habits

401k, retirement, Social Security, mortaliltyIt's creepy.

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”

No—you probably won’t make it.

A new research paper from Maria Fitzpatrick of Cornell University and Timothy Moore of the University of Melbourne finds a spike in mortality for men at age 62.

The fact that it happens to be the same age at which a third of Americans begin claiming Social Security is happenstance.

Or is it?

Fitzpatrick, a professor of policy and management, and Moore, an economist, note that “mortality is an important, well-measured, objective health outcome. The availability of detailed administrative data on the entire U.S. population and a strong claiming response to Social Security eligibility provides an opportunity to examine how retirement-related behaviors affect an objective health outcome.”

Said opportunity finds evidence of a 2 percent increase in overall male mortality at age 62, a change that is statistically significant and robust to different modeling choices, including the range of mortality data used.

They add that “[t]he estimated increase is largest for unmarried males and males with low education levels. While these demographic groups do not necessarily experience the largest rates of claiming Social Security at age 62, they do have the largest changes in terms of labor force exit.”

The duo point to traffic accidents and two lung-related conditions: COPD and lung cancer, as the leading causes of male sexagenarian demise, and all are related to job loss.

“[T]here is also suggestive evidence that males engage in more unhealthy behaviors once they retire. In combination, the results suggest decreased labor force participation upon turning 62 as a key reason for a discontinuous increase in male mortality, although other factors may also play a role.”

And, of course, a marked change in female mortality at age 62 was not observed.

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