Experts have become increasingly worried about the ability of U.S. citizens to save for retirement. A recent report from 2015 showed that up to 30 million people dipped into their retirement savings to pay for some sort of emergency. Another showed that over half of older Americans had no retirement savings to speak of.
While the implications of these reports are bad enough on a financial level, a new study shows that those missing out on a proper retirement may also be missing out on some health benefits. Researchers from the University of Sydney found that people sleep better and become more active in general after they retire, factors that contribute to a healthier lifestyle.
Positive lifestyle changes
The researchers were able to come to their conclusions after analyzing the behaviors of 25,000 older Australian citizens. Some of the factors that were scrutinized included sleeping patterns, physical activity, sedentary behavior, alcohol use, and diet.
In all, the data suggested that retirement actually improved the lives of many older participants. Dr. Melody Ding, lead researcher for the study, explains how positive lifestyle improvements can be made by leaving the workforce.
“Compared with people who were still working, retirees had increased physical activity levels, reduced sitting time, were less likely to smoke, and had healthier sleep patterns. . . A major life change like retirement creates a great window of opportunity to make positive lifestyle changes – it’s a chance to get rid of bad routines and engineer new, healthier behaviours,” she said.
The numbers don’t lie. The researchers found that, on average, those surveyed increased physical activity by93 minutes per week, decreased the amount of time spent sedentary by 63 minutes per day, and increased sleep by 11 minutes per day. They also found that half of all female smokers quit after going into retirement.
The researchers suspect that many of these positive changes are simply the result of having more personal time.
“The lifestyle changes were most pronounced in people who retire after working full-time. When people are working and commuting, it eats a lot of time out of their day. When they retire, they have time to be physically active and sleep more,” said Dr. Ding.
She and her colleagues state that many of these positive lifestyle changes actively work against diseases and health problems like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They hope that their research will make an impact so that proactive policies can be put in place to encourage positive lifestyle changes in retirees.
“The findings suggest that both health professionals and policy makers should consider developing special programs for retirees to capitalise on the health transitions through retirement,” said Dr. Ding.