The University of Sydney has published this week results of a study that concludes retirement really is good for your health.
University researchers followed a large sample of 25,000 Australian seniors, measuring levels of physical activity, diet, sedentary behaviour, alcohol use and sleep patterns.
Published this week in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, the results revealed that once retired, seniors increased their physical activity by 93 minutes a week, decreased sedentary time by 67 minutes per day, enjoyed 11 minutes more sleep per day, and 50 percent of female smokers stopped smoking.
The health improvements were significant even after adjusting the data for age, gender, marital status, education, and whether the seniors lived in a rural or urban location.
No significant link was found between being retired and alcohol use or fruit and vegetable consumption.
The team also found that the positive lifestyle changes were even stronger in those who had stopped working full-time, probably because so much extra time became newly available to retirees, giving them the chance to pursue healthier lifestyles and take part in health-boosting activities such as sleep and exercise.
"A major life change like retirement creates a great window of opportunity to make positive lifestyle changes — it's a chance to get rid of bad routines and engineer new, healthier behaviours", commented lead researcher Dr Melody Ding.
And the positive effect of retirement wasn't only seen by Ding in her study, "My mother still lives in China and they have mandatory retirement for women at age 55. When she turned 55 she was really anxious about stopping work — she felt like she was not as valuable. So I thought I'd like to find some positive information about retirement".
"She now spends her days enjoying so many hobbies, she can't remember how she had time to work".
Dr Ding now hopes that people will begin to view their retirement more positively, and use it to make similar positive lifestyle changes which will lead to better health across the more senior Australian population.
"Retirement is a good time for doctors to talk their patients about making positive lifestyle changes that could add years to their life", Dr Ding said, adding, "The findings suggest that both health professionals and policy makers should consider developing special programs for retirees to capitalise on the health transitions through retirement".