Objective: To assess whether early retirement is associated with better survival. Design: Long term prospective cohort study. Setting: Petroleum and petrochemical industry, United States. Subjects: Past employees of Shell Oil who retired at ages 55, 60, and 65 between 1 January 1973 and 31 December 2003. Main outcome measure: Hazard ratio of death adjusted for sex, year of entry to study, and socioeconomic status. Results: Subjects who retired early at 55 and who were still alive at 65 had a significantly higher mortality than those who retired at 65 (hazard ratio 1.37, 95% confidence interval 1.09 to 1.73). Mortality was also significantly higher for subjects in the first 10 years after retirement at 55 compared with those who continued working (1.89, 1.58 to 2.27). After adjustment, mortality was similar between those who retired at 60 and those who retired at 65 (1.06, 0.92 to 1.22). Mortality did not differ for the first five years after retirement at 60 compared with continuing work at 60 (1.04, 0.82 to 1.31). Conclusions: Retiring early at 55 or 60 was not associated with better survival than retiring at 65 in a cohort of past employees of the petrochemical industry. Mortality was higher in employees who retired at 55 than in those who continued working.
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