Background: Transitions such as retirement may represent points at which changes in health behaviour occur.
Objective: To assess whether transition into retirement is associated with increased rates of smoking cessation.
Design: Population-based prospective cohort study in England.
Setting and participants: One thousand seven hundred and twelve smokers aged 50 years and over, followed up for 5 to 6 years.
Measurements: Work status (working/retired) and smoking status (non-smoker/smoker) at baseline and follow-up.
Results: At baseline, 381 (22.2%) of our respondents had retired, 444 (25.9%) were working and remained in work at follow-up, and 167 (9.8%) transitioned from work to retirement. Seven hundred and twenty (42.1%) had some other status (e.g. unpaid work/unemployment). A total of 42.5% (95% CI 34.9-50.1) of those who retired quit smoking; for those remaining in employment this figure was 29.3% (95% CI 25.0-33.6), and for those already retired it was 30.2% (95% CI 25.5-34.9). In adjusted regression analyses, those aged 55-70 who retired were more than twice as likely (fully adjusted odds ratio 2.50 (95% CI 1.35-4.62)) to quit smoking as those who continued to work. Results were robust when those who retired for reasons of ill-health were excluded.
Conclusions: Our results suggest individuals who undergo the transition into retirement are more likely to quit smoking than those who do not. Interventions should be developed to specifically target those who are retiring, or soon to retire, and those who are due to retire should be helped to incorporate smoking cessation into their retirement planning.