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Mental Health and Labor Force Exits in Older Workers: The Mediating or Moderating Roles of Physical Health and Job Factors

  • Linda A. Wray

    (Pennsylvania State University)

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    This paper extends earlier health and work studies by examining how mental health affects transitions out of paid work in the years prior to the traditional Social Security retirement ages. Given recent changes in the labor market, optimal mental health may be as important a prerequisite for continuing employment as good physical health. This study uses data from the Health and Retirement Study to examine how mental health is linked to transitions to early retirement or other unemployment in 1996 for middle-aged adults who were currently working in 1992 and whether physical health, job, or sociodemographic factors affect those links. The study results indicated that mental health plays a strong and significant role in the move from paid work to other unemployment in three ways, net of other documented health, job, and sociodemographic correlates of work status. First, higher baseline CES-D depressive symptoms predicted the transition to retiree in male workers. Second, increased CES-D depressive symptoms between 1992 and 1994 (net of baseline symptoms) predicted exits from paid employment and into other unemployment by 1996. Finally, low job autonomy did not have the hypothesized moderating effect on the mental health-work status link. The results also indicated that mental health may be an even more important predictor of transitions out of paid work among middle-aged workers than are physical health and functioning and that patterns of labor force exit differ for men and women.

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    Paper provided by University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center in its series Working Papers with number wp047.

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    Length: 35 pages
    Date of creation: Jun 2003
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp047
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    1. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:106:y:1991:i:3:p:939-49 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Verbrugge, Lois M. & Jette, Alan M., 1994. "The disablement process," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 1-14, January.
    3. Sickles, Robin C & Taubman, Paul, 1986. "An Analysis of the Health and Retirement Status of the Elderly," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(6), pages 1339-56, November.
    4. Lynn A. Karoly & Jeannette A. Rogowski, 1994. "The effect of access to post-retirement health insurance on the decision to retire early," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(1), pages 103-123, October.
    5. Kathryn H. Anderson & Richard V. Burkhauser, 1985. "The Retirement-Health Nexus: A New Measure of an Old Puzzle," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 20(3), pages 315-330.
    6. Gloria J. Bazzoli, 1985. "The Early Retirement Decision: New Empirical Evidence on the Influence of Health," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 20(2), pages 214-234.
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