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Determinants of retirement age differ between contexts and populations

Scharn M, Sewdas R, Boot C, Huisman M, Lindeboom M, van der Beek A. Domains and determinants of retirement timing: A systematic review of longitudinal studies BMC Public Health. 2018; 18(1): 1083.

Review question

      What are the determinants of retirement timing among older workers?


      In many modern industrialized countries, the population is ageing quickly and life expectancy is increasing. Because of this, governments have designed policies to prevent an early exit from the workforce and increase the retirement age.

      Although older workers are stimulated by recent policy changes to retain in the workforce until higher age, it remains unclear what the determinants are for retirement timing among older workers.

      The aim of this article is to collect the available research on the determinants of retirement timing. Additionally, authors aimed to identify gaps and recommendations for further research on retirement timing.

How the review was done

      Study authors conducted a detailed literature search using 11 databases.

      Any longitudinal studies on the determinants of retirement timing were included if they were written in English or Dutch.

      Websites, research repositories, and journals were hand searched for additional articles.

      Of the 1,998 studies identified from the search, 20 papers were included in this review.

What the researchers found

      The determinants of retirement timing were classified into eight domains: demographic factors, health factors, social factors, social participation, work characteristics, financial factors, retirement preferences, and macro effects.

      Education and gender were determinants for demographic factors. Although education was not found to influence early retirement in studies from the United States, Netherlands, and Germany, one study out of the United Kingdom showed that a higher education level increased the probability of early retirement.

      Health factors were categorized into general health and lifestyle factors, with the most prominently studied determinant being poor health. One study showed that poor health influenced early retirement in the United Kingdom and Germany, but it did not influence early retirement in the Netherlands.

      In terms of social factors, one study showed that workers with an employed partner were less likely to retire early in Germany and the United Kingdom, while in the Netherlands no effect was found.

      Social participation factors included factors related to individuals’ lives outside of work. It was found that both men and women who are satisfied with their leisure time are more likely to retire later.

      Mixed results were found for work characteristics. While factors such as temporary employment and working in small firms were associated with retiring early among men, they were associated with retiring later among women.

      Within financial factors, personal income was reported as a principle determinant. While one studied showed that having a higher income was associated with retiring later among women in Europe, another study conducted in the Netherlands showed that personal income did not have an effect on retirement age.

      One study concluded that retirement preferences did not play a role in retirement timing, while policy reforms and birth cohorts were examples of determinants for macro effects.


      The findings from this review suggest that there is a wide range of determinants that influence retirement timing in modern industrialized countries and that these determinants differ between countries.

      Study authors recommend that researchers include a wide variety of determinants when studying retirement timing, while taking into account each country’s unique context.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

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