Living longer, working longer? The impact of subjective life expectancy on retirement intentions and behaviour

Eur J Public Health. 2010 Feb;20(1):47-51. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckp118. Epub 2009 Oct 12.


Background: Virtually all Western countries are seeking to bring retirement ages more in line with increases in longevity. The central question in this article is whether individuals choose a retirement age that fits their life expectancy. This would be ideal from a public policy perspective. The present study aims to test empirically whether retirement planning varies with expectations of survival among a sample of older employees in the Netherlands. Two questions are addressed: (i) what are older employees' expectations of their remaining lifetime, and what factors influence this subjective life expectancy? (ii) Are individuals who perceive longer life horizons (high subjective life expectancy) more inclined to retire later than people who expect to live shorter?

Methods: Using data from a panel study on retirement behaviour in the Netherlands (N = 1621 older employees aged 50-60 years), regression and survival models are estimated to examine the effect of subjective life expectancy on retirement planning and behaviour.

Results: The results indicate that subjective life expectancy is a factor that is taken into account in retirement decision making, at least as far as retirement intentions are concerned. Older employees with longer time horizons have a preference for later retirement. When it comes to actual behaviour, however, time horizon does not appear to play a role.

Conclusion: The results suggest that particularly employees with a high perceived life expectancy and an intention to work longer do not succeed in carrying their intentions into effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Employment
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Netherlands
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retirement* / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires