Background: it is uncertain how recent changes in labour force dynamics may have influenced the increasing numbers of people taking early retirement in industrialized countries. The Whitehall II study provides an opportunity to examine the predictors of early retirement in one of the largest employers in the United Kingdom.
Methods: we examined the factors predicting early retirement in a 7-year follow-up period from 1988 to 1995 using longitudinal data on 2532 male and female London-based civil servants aged between 50 and 59.5 years. Baseline data on employment grade and duration of time working for the Civil Service were obtained from self-completed questionnaires. The primary factors examined included health, work characteristics, questions about job demands and job satisfaction and financial insecurity, wealth and material problems. Time until early retirement was analysed using Cox proportional hazards model.
Results: of the 2532 civil servants, 26.7% retired early during the follow-up period. We found that men and women in the higher-paid employment grades, those that had suffered from ill health and those that were less satisfied with their jobs were more likely to retire early, whereas material problems tended to keep people working.
Conclusions: our results show that self-perceived health, employment grade and job satisfaction are all independent predictors of early retirement. Qualitative analyses may further advance our understanding of the retirement process.