Work longer to live longer

by on 08/01/2013

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It has been assumed in many circles that if you have a long working life, you will die younger – through the effects of exhaustion, extra stress, and so on. So, apparently, working hard advances aging.

I have always questioned this conclusion for myself at least – I haven’t the slightest desire to stop working completely, at any point in my life. I find it a bit depressing when I hear someone say: “Only 17 years until I retire and get my pension…”. Obviously if you do physical work you will tire as you age – if you are digging roads, then after 40 or 50 years of this your body will certainly be aging.

Fair enough – you might want a rest!

The important factor, I suppose, is: Do you enjoy your work – and how much?

I can certainly understand some groups in the UK – for example teachers and nurses – looking forward to retirement; because their jobs do not have the respect attached to them that they have had in the past. And other groups still are respected to some extent, but have massive work loads which are draining – I’m thinking of doctors, for example.

It’s up to you to enjoy your work

It is completely up to the individual to choose a job they find rewarding and satisfying, as well as providing an appropriate wage or salary. Of course it is difficult to change career – but it is not impossible. It only takes a definite decision, in fact, which presupposes a solid commitment – the hard bit! It’s a risk, of course; but then life is most rewarding when lived to the full.

Up jump many in the social professions and exclaim: “But my job is a ‘calling’ – what would all these people I help do if I wasn’t there?”

Well, it is not actually necessary to suffer low respect, overwork, high stress or relatively low pay to help lots of people.

There are other ways you can help people which will give you more positive benefits. And these other ways don’t involve the risk to your mental and physical health that long term stress, for example, produces.

You can give more – if you feel fulfilled

After all, if your quality of life – the key issue here – is good; then you are in the best position to use your skills and desires to the maximum to help friends and family. You are also best placed to nurture close relationships and benefit those you meet in life – including those you touch through your chosen calling or career.

Back to living longer…

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent; I really wanted to tell you about the ‘excitingly’ named “Continuous Mortality Investigation“. this looks at aging and the effects of aging.

This is a UK body whose studies are used by actuaries and insurance folks to assess the risks of insuring people, and determining likely pension benefits.

A study of theirs has confounded conventional assumptions, by finding that the longer people work, the longer they are likely to live. The study shows that people who retired aged 60 are likely to live to age 82; people who retire five years later at 65 are likely to live 6 months longer; but those who work until they are 70 are likely to live to 83 and a half – a full eighteen months longer.

These findings seriously challenge the view that white collar workers who retire are likely to drop dead a few months after their retirement party. Though a widely held view, there is little hard evidence for it.

A help for a difficult government decision

These new figures will lend justification to – mainly European – governments who would love to introduce a politically dangerous policy; raising retirement age.

This is necessary to help them cope with the ‘demographic time bomb’, which kicks in over the next 20-30 years. This is where much larger amounts in state pensions will have to be paid, to a growing number of longer living pensioners. The “demographics” part is that, because of the ‘baby-boomer’ years when birth rates soared, pensioner numbers increased dramatically; then because of the later drop in birth rate, the numbers in work – who pay these pensions out of their current income – will shrink at the same time. Taxes will have to rise dramatically to pay for this at some point in the future.

No government wants to be unpopular, so the countries who will be affected most are those sticking their heads in the sand – until someone in successive government ‘bites the bullet’.

Japan is going to be in a terrible position in a generation.

In Europe, Germany will be afflicted the most – and they are making absolutely no visible plans for the coming disaster. France is in a similar position.

The UK still has a significant challenge here – but is better placed than most of the rest of Europe, due to re-aligning of pensions in the 80s, and a more favourable demographic profile.

Anyway, sooner or later governments will have to do something. And the one obvious ‘something’ to do is – raise the retirement age.

A sensible suggestion to deal with aging

Raising retirement age may get a government thrown out of office. So here is a suggestion: change attitudes through education.

Educate people to expect to follow a career that they really enjoy. Implant this in children at a very early age – then they will expect it when aging kicks in.

I know this is a radical idea which few, if any, education systems have embraced fully. But it is a key to happiness that you must spend your work career doing something you enjoy; after all, you do it for half your waking day.

Of course, this idea will be impossible to put over to children if you yourself – as a teacher – actually don’t enjoy your own job terrifically. If the teachers aren’t convinced of the value of what they are teaching – they won’t be able to put it over believably.

Which means that the way countries select and train teachers has to change too.

OK – so this is very unlikely to happen. But think of the implications if it did – people wouldn’t even want to retire early! Aging would have no effect on this decision.

Education like this would take a generation to get through to adults. What a co-incidence – that’s when the demographic time-bomb starts to hit.

Action needed earlier

But some drastic action must be taken sooner. Let’s just see how long Germany takes to decide to do something about this aging bubble. Otherwise they face a sudden doubling of income tax in twenty years time. The economists know what that is likely to do the economy – and it’s not pretty.

Those in power know exactly what is likely to happen – they are clearly to blame if they do nothing.

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