Ministers have been urged to remove barriers to people working longer after a study found that retirement has a detrimental effect on both mental and physical health over time.
The Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank published its Work longer, live healthier report today. It found that, while retiring may provide an initial boost for a person's health, over the medium term it decreases the likelihood of someone assessing their own health as 'very good' or 'excellent' by around 40%.
Retirement also increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by about 40% and the probability of having at least one diagnosed physical condition by about 60%.
The paper found that these problems were exacerbated by the length of time spent in retirement. Doubling the time spent out of work increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by 17% and reduces the likelihood of being in 'very good' or 'excellent' self-assessed health by between 10-30%.
This is particularly marked given the 'significant' drop in older peoples' participation in the labour market seen over the past 50 years, the report said. At the same time, peoples' healthy life expectancy has increased, suggesting they have the capability to work longer.
'Increases in the number of healthy years of life that we can enjoy have not been reflected in longer working lives - indeed, the reverse is the case: people were working longer half a century ago,' the report stated.
To address the health problems associated with longer retirement, government should increase the state pension age and remove impediments to later retirement such as those found in disability benefit provision and employment protection legislation, the IEA said.
Philip Booth, editorial and programme director at the IEA, commented: 'Over several decades, governments have failed to deal with the "demographic time bomb". There is now general agreement that state pension ages should be raised. The government should take firmer action here and also deregulate labour markets. Working longer will not only be an economic necessity, it also helps people to live healthier lives.'
Plans to increase the state pension age automatically in line with increases in longevity were included in the Pensions Bill published last week.
Edward Datnow, chair of Age Endeavour Partnership, the charity which funded the report, said the report should act as 'wake-up call' for groups lobbying on behalf of older people.
'More emphasis needs to be given to ways of enabling a work-life balance beyond today's normal retirement age with legislative discouragements to extending working life being replaced with incentives,' he explained.
'There should be no "normal" retirement age in future. More employers need to consider how they will capitalise on Britain's untapped grey potential and those seeking to retire should think very hard about whether it is their best option.'