Objectives: Changes in health following retirement are poorly understood. We used serial measurements to assess the effect of retirement on sleep disturbances.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: The French national gas and electricity company.
Participants: Fourteen thousand seven hundred fourteen retired employees (79% men).
Measurements and results: Annual survey measurements of sleep disturbances ranging from 7 years before to 7 years after retirement (a mean of 12 measurements). Before retirement 22.2% to 24.6% of participants reported having disturbed sleep. According to repeated-measures logistic-regression analysis with generalized estimating equations estimation, the odds ratio (OR) for having a sleep disturbance in the postretirement period was 0.74 (95% confidence interval 0.71-0.77), compared with having a sleep disturbance in the preretirement period. The postretirement improvement in sleep was more pronounced in men (OR 0.66 [0.63-0.69]) than in women (OR 0.89 [0.84-0.95]) and in higher-grade workers than lower-grade workers. Postretirement sleep improvement was explained by the combination of preretirement risk factors suggesting removal of work-related exposures as a mechanism. The only exception to the general improvement in sleep after retirement was related to retirement on health grounds. In this group of participants, there was an increase in sleep disturbances following retirement.
Conclusions: Repeated measurements provide strong evidence for a substantial and sustained decrease in sleep disturbances following retirement. The possibility that the health and well-being of individuals are significantly worse when in employment than following retirement presents a great challenge to improve the quality of work life in Western societies in which the cost of the aging population can only be met through an increase in average retirement age.