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Health Serv Res. 2008 Apr;43(2):693-713. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2007.00782.x.

Depression and retirement in late middle-aged U.S. workers.

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  • 1University of Pennsylvania, Blockley Hall, Rm. 1222, 423 Guardian Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6021, USA.



To determine whether late middle-aged U.S. workers with depression are at an increased risk for retirement.


Six biennial waves (1992-2002) of the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative panel survey of noninstitutionalized 51-61-year-olds and their spouses started in 1992.


Workers aged 53-58 years in 1994 were followed every 2 years thereafter, through 2002. Depression was coded as lagged time-dependent variables measuring active depression and severity of depression. The main outcome variable was a transition to retirement which was measured using two distinct definitions to capture different stages in the retirement process: (1) Retirement was defined as a transition out of the labor force in the sample of all labor force participants (N=2,853); (2) In addition a transition out of full time work was used as the retirement definition in the subset of labor force participants who were full time workers (N=2,288).


In the sample of all labor force participants, the presence of active depression significantly increased the hazard of retirement in both late middle-aged men (adjusted OR: 1.37 [95 percent CI 1.05, 1.80]) and women (adjusted OR: 1.40 [95 percent CI 1.10, 1.78]). For women, subthreshold depression was also a significant predictor of retirement. In the sample of full time workers, the relationship between depression and retirement was considerably weaker for women yet remained strong for men.


Depression and depressive symptoms were significantly associated with retirement in late middle-aged U.S. workers. Policymakers must consider the potentially adverse impact of these labor market outcomes when estimating the cost of untreated depression and evaluating the value of interventions to improve the diagnosis and treatment of depression.

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