Men Who Work Longer, Live Longer

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In 2007, the majority of workers in The Netherlands were retiring by their early sixties to take advantage of the country’s generous pension scheme. Then came a sweeping 2009 policy that rewarded older workers with a tax break if they remained employed and active.

In a new study, researchers used this tax break – the Doorwerkbonus, or continued work bonus – to ask the question: do people who worked longer in response to this policy also live longer?  The short answer is “no” for women but “yes” for men. Delaying retirement increased men’s lifespans by three months, compared with a group that was not eligible for the bonus, possibly because working longer improved their health.

The tax break was the equivalent of a wage increase for all older workers in every sector of the Dutch economy. The bonus started as a 5 percent tax cut for working people in the year they turned 62, increased to 7 percent at 63, and 10 percent at 64. After that, the rewards from work dwindled, falling to 1 percent for everyone over 67. (In 2013, the size of the tax break was reduced.)

Prior to the new study, other researchers had examined whether earlier retirements caused people to die younger. But Alice Zulkarnain and Matthew Rutledge at the Center for Retirement Research took the opposite tack. They asked: were the Dutch living longer because they delayed retirement after the Doorwerkbonus went into effect?

While the policy did increase men’s life spans slightly, women seemed unaffected, because fewer of them responded to it by working longer.

Is there a lesson in the Doorwerkbonus for American boomers?  This study indicates that working longer will not only put more money in retirees’ pockets, it might also add to their life spans.

The research reported herein was performed pursuant to a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Retirement Research Consortium. The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA or any agency of the federal government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the contents of this report. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof.


This is interesting, but did those men who worked longer have better health to begin with?

    Kim Blanton, Squared Away blogger

    Thanks for the question Phil.

    The authors found that the policy did reduce mortality on average.

    But yes, it is possible that some of the people work longer had better health at the start.

    Thanks for reading the blog!

Ken Pidcock

There’s nothing here to indicate that, had the men who delayed retirement not done so, they would not have lived as long. Most likely, the decision whether or not to continue working was influenced by self-assessment of health.

Daniel Winegarden

There is a self-selection aspect to electing to work longer. Those of higher income and better health tend to work past normal retirement age (based on U.S. experience). U.S. policy is similarly encouraging longer working lives with increased Social Security benefits by delaying past early-retirement eligibility at age 62, with maximum benefits at 70. Physically demanding careers are not always as easy to extend.

Cynthia Newman msw, lcsw

Not sure what I think of this research? I assume men who worked longer did so because they were in good general health. 3 months doesn’t seem all that impressive…


Maybe being healthier enabled the older workers to work longer. Being healthier may lead to longer life, not because of working longer.

John Saunders

Simply stated, there is a difference between a positive correlation and causality.

Kim Blanton, Squared Away blogger

On the issue of correlation versus causality, I should’ve been clearer in my previous response to a comment.

The researchers did, indeed, conclude that the policy actually played a role in men’s longer life spans. But their health was a second factor.

In other words, we can thank both!

Comments are closed.