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Juliane Roloff (2004)

Transition from Working Life into Retirement and Changes in Subjective Health, Shown by the Example of Western German Cohorts 1933 to 1938*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 29, 2/2004, p. 219-243, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, ISSN: 0340-2398

The life expectancy survey, a research project which is currently running at the Federal Institute for Demographic Research (BiB) on the topic "Lifestyles and their influence on health and life expectancy" offered the opportunity to examine the truth behind a statement which is frequently made, that with many people the transition from (usually) a long working life into retirement causes a health shock, unless it takes place voluntarily. Earlier research work previously carried out on this did not provide any clear, empirical findings. In this analysis, the Western German working persons chosen in the first survey of the life expectancy survey (1984/86) of those born from 1933 to 1938 were selected who were still in working life or were now retired in the repeat survey (1998). These two groups were compared to identify changes in their subjective state of health, intensity of complaints, complaints situation, here amongst other things in dependence on burden working conditions, and their satisfaction with their health. The following was revealed:

The subjective evaluation of own health was generally less favourable in the second group as against the first life expectancy survey. This picture is brought into perspective if one includes only the two main groups investigated "Still working" and "In old-age retirement". For the majority of these, the subjective state of health, be it good or bad, has remained unchanged. For those with a change, this took place among those at work more towards "worse", whilst among those in old-age retirement, by contrast, it was more towards "better". This also applies to the intensity of complaints. Whilst this has also not changed over time for the majority of respondents, where this was the case, it more often meant a worsening for those still working, whilst it tended to mean an improvement for retirees. As to individual complaints, in general terms, a more negative change can be seen in the complaints situation of the respondents born from 1933 to 1938. However, here too it is possible to ascertain contrary trends between those still working and those now in retirement: The frequency of individual complaints, in particular stress-related and/or complaints linked to computerisation of work activities, has fallen among the ex-workers, whilst it has increased among those still at work. The generally better subjective state of health of retirees as against those in work is accordingly reflected in the higher satisfaction with health. The analysis of the results of the life expectancy survey questionnaire cannot confirm the above claim. The hypothesis of a "retirement shock" can not be supported.

* Original title: Der Übergang vom Erwerbsleben in den Ruhestand und Veränderungen der subjektiven Gesundheit, dargestellt am Beispiel der westdeutschen Altersjahrgänge 1933 bis 1938 (full text in German only)

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