The role of social relationships on timing of retirement

In the new article from the FIREA study, characteristics of social relationship were found to stimulate the decision to work beyond the individual pensionable age.

To tackle the challenges resulted by upsurge in life expectancy, many countries including Finland have set a political aim to encourage people to extend their working careers. These aims are set as a potential solution to ensure labor supply in the job market as well as balance the challenge for national economics.

A range of factors from personal life as well as organizational and psychosocial factors at work could motivate a person to extend working life beyond pensionable age. Characteristics of social relationships are likewise important in making career decisions as they are crucial for well-being of an individual. For example, those who have a working spouse are likely to work after retirement because individual’s retirement preferences may be affected by the opinions or retirement behavior of people in the social network. Those who are single or unmarried may prioritize work over leisure but those engaged in social activities have wider network therefore, they could have other activities to keep them socially active than working longer. There might be a gender difference in actual extension of working careers as women adopt informal care responsibilities more often than men, which makes them less likely to extend than men.

By using the Finnish Retirement and Aging study, we examined whether different characteristics of social relationships are associated with extended employment among men and women using the repetitive yearly measurements (n=4014, 83% women, mean age 62.6 years). The difference between the individual pensionable date and the actual retirement date in days was regarded extension (short-extension of three months to <1-year and long-extension at least one year). Results showed that men extended more than women and many social relationship characteristics were the drivers of extension. Women and men who had a working spouse extended by long term than those without a working spouse. Women who were actively involved in formal social participation (e.g., being members of club and societal activities) and consumptive social participation (e.g., attending cultural and religious activities and studying) were long extenders. Interestingly, those women who actively participated in handwork and collecting hobbies, playing an instrument, singing, photographing, painting, physical activity, or outdoor activities, did not extend.

In conclusion, social relationship status of an individual could stimulate the decision to extend employment beyond the pensionable age.

The research is funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fund.

Original Publication:

Kauppi M, Prakash KC, Virtanen M, Pentti J, Alto V, Oksanen T, Kivimäki M, Vahtera J, Stenholm S. Social relationships as predictors of extended employment beyond the pensionable age: a cohort study. European Journal of Ageing, 2021;18(4):491-501. doi: 10.1007/s10433-021-00603-z