The differentiated roles of health in the transition from work to retirement – conceptual and methodological challenges and avenues for future research

Hans Martin Hasselhorn*, Taina Leinonen, Ute Bültmann, Ingrid Sivesind Mehlum, Jean-Baptist du Prel, Sibel Kiran, Nicole Majery, Svetlana Solovieva, Astrid de Wind

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives The aim of this discussion paper is to (i) identify the differentiated roles of health in the work–retirement transition, and, with respect to these, (ii) highlight topics related to conceptual and methodological problems and challenges in research, and (iii) present avenues for future research. Methods This discussion paper summarizes an OMEGA-NET working group discussion ongoing from November 2018 to September 2021 with face-to-face and online meetings as well as a written online discourse. Results ‘Health’ and ‘retirement’ are ambiguous concepts. With respect to both, in retirement research, the choice of concept and indicator influences the findings. In addition, the impact of health on retirement is not necessarily a direct one, but can be influenced by further factors such as the ability, motivation and opportunity to work. The strong overall association of poor health with retiring early (path 1) bears the risk of masking distinct and deviating mechanisms in subgroups. In fact, there is evidence that also good health may lead to early retirement (path 2), while both poor health (path 3) and good health (path 4) may also make people retire later. Conclusions An increased awareness of the differentiated roles that health may have in the work–retirement transition as outlined in this discussion paper may support research to address questions relevant for policy and practice and increase the impact of research. Recommendations for occupational health and social research are given.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-321
Number of pages10
JournalScandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022

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