Depression Often Leads to Early Retirement, and in Turn Worse Depression
> 11/5/2007 1:44:11 PM

Because work-related stress can fuel depression and depression can hinder our ability to function at work, making us unmotivated and unproductive, it is not surprising that some depressed workers view retirement as the best solution to their problems. This is not the case, however, as a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania illustrates. The researchers discovered that depressed workers are more likely to retire at an early age, a move which can exacerbate their depression.

The researchers used data from the Health and Retirement Study, a national study supported by the National Institute of Aging that surveys participants every two years. They analyzed information from nearly 2,853 workers over 50 who were interviewed from 1994 to 2002. Having depression pushed the odds ratio for retirement to 1.37 in men an 1.40 in women, and those with more severe cases of depression were most at risk for retiring. Participants with active depression were more likely to retire than participants with subthreshold depression, and participants with subthreshold depression were more likely to retire than participants without depression. For men, the results were the same for both part time and full time workers, while for women, depression only increased the chances of retirement in part time workers. Overall, depressed workers were 40 times more likely to retire at an early age than than workers without depression.

While someone struggling with depression may feel unable to work, early retirement causes a host of other problems that can worsen preexisting depression. Those who retire while in their 50s or early 60s miss out on social security benefits, which begin at age 62, and they do not qualify for Medicare until they turn 65. Young retirees may find themselves without a steady income and without health insurance, a combination that leaves them vulnerable and unable to care for their physical and mental health.

As researchers continue to study the devastating effects depression can have on our ability to work, more businesses are recognizing the advantages of helping employees manage their depression and other mental illnesses without permanently leaving the workforce. Maintaining a job can prove beneficial for those who suffer from depression not only because of the sense of purpose that a job provides but also because those with jobs are more likely to have health insurance. They are also more likely to seek treatment for depression. If we can continue to identify and treat those with depression, we can help many who would have retired early to lead happier, more productive lives.

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