Background: Several studies regarding the effect of retirement on physical as well as mental health have been performed, but the results thereof remain inconclusive. The aim of this review is to systematically summarise the literature on the health effects of retirement, describing differences in terms of voluntary, involuntary and regulatory retirement and between blue-collar and white-collar workers.
Methods: A search for longitudinal studies using keywords that referred to the exposure (retirement), outcome (health-related) and study design (longitudinal) was performed using several electronic databases. Articles were then selected for full text analysis and the reference lists of the selected studies were checked for relevant studies. The quality of the studies was rated based on predefined criteria. Data was analysed qualitatively by using a best evidence synthesis. When possible, pooled mean differences and effect sizes were calculated to estimate the effect of retirement on health.
Results: Twenty-two longitudinal studies were included, of which eleven were deemed to be of high quality. Strong evidence was found for retirement having a beneficial effect on mental health, and contradictory evidence was found for retirement having an effect on perceived general health and physical health. Few studies examined the differences between blue- and white-collar workers and between voluntary, involuntary and regulatory retirement with regards to the effect of retirement on health outcomes.
Conclusions: More longitudinal research on the health effects of retirement is needed, including research into potentially influencing factors such as work characteristics and the characteristics of retirement.