MRO Magazine

Alcohol high among health factors leading to early retirement of older workers

Ottawa, ON -- Workers with health problems were most likely to retire before reaching the age of 65, whereas t...

Health & Safety

June 29, 2010
By MRO Magazine

Ottawa, ON — Workers with health problems were most likely to retire before reaching the age of 65, whereas the exit rate from the labour force was consistently lower for healthy workers without chronic conditions, according to a new study from Statistics Canada.

About 35% of full-time workers who were between the ages of 40 and 52 in 1994/1995, and who reported poor or fair health, had left work by 2006/2007 when they were at most 64 years of age. About 24% of workers who had been diagnosed with three or more chronic conditions had also left work during this 12-year period.

However, among workers who reported excellent or very good health and did not have chronic conditions, just 16% had left the workforce during this period.

The study also examined the relationship between health-related factors and early retirement. The effect of heavy drinking on labour force exits was a significant factor for men. Compared with other workers, those who consumed five or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion at least once per month were almost twice as likely to take an early retirement.


Among women, obesity was the main factor related to earlier retirement. Obese workers were 1.6 times more likely than the non-obese to retire early.

In addition, men who smoked daily had a significantly higher risk of early exit from the labour force. Daily smokers were almost twice as likely as other workers to retire early.

Smoking and obesity were found to affect early retirement through their effects on health status. When health status was taken into consideration, the effects of those two conditions disappeared. However, even after controlling for self-perceived health, heavy drinking still had a significant effect on early exits from the labour market.

For the purposes of this study, job strain was defined as workers reporting highly demanding jobs and limited control over their work environment. Job strain significantly increased the likelihood of early retirement for women. Women with high-strain jobs were almost twice as likely as their colleagues with low-strain jobs to leave the labour force early.

Among men, those who felt that they had low support from their supervisors were at almost twice the risk of retiring early compared with those who had support. Similarly, physically demanding jobs increased the risk of early retirement by 53% for men.

Dissatisfied workers were 62% more likely than satisfied workers to stop working early in their lifetime.

Note: This study used the National Population Health Survey to examine associations between various health factors and early departure from the labour market. The study included respondents 40 to 52 years of age in 1994/1995 who indicated their pattern of working hours in the previous 12 months as one full-time job, only full-time at all jobs, or some full-time and some part-time jobs. Their work activities were followed until 2005/2006, when they were between 52 and 64. Statistical models were used to examine longitudinal associations between health factors and retirement.

The article “Health factors and early retirement among older workers” is now available in the June 2010 online edition of Perspectives on Labour and Income, Vol. 11, no. 6 (75-001-X, free), from the Key resource module at, under Publications.