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The effect of retirement on biomedical and behavioral risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
Retirement is a major life event potentially associated with changes in relevant risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic conditions. This study analyzes the effect of retirement on behavioral and biomedical risk factors for chronic disease, together with subjective health parameters using Southern German epidemiological data. We used panel data from the KORA cohort study, consisting of 11,168 observations for individuals 45–80 years old. Outcomes included health behavior (alcohol, smoking, physical activity), biomedical risk factors (BMI, waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), total cholesterol/HDL quotient, systolic/diastolic blood pressure), and subjective health (SF12 mental and physical, self-rated health). We applied a parametric regression discontinuity design based on age thresholds for pension eligibility. Robust results after p-value corrections for multiple testing showed an increase in BMI in early retirees (at the age of 60) [β = 1.11, corrected p-val. < 0.05] and an increase in CHO/HDL in regular retirees (age 65) [β = 0.47, corrected p-val. < 0.05]. Stratified analyses indicate that the increase in BMI might be driven by women and low-educated individuals retiring early, despite increases in the level of physical activity. The increase in CHO/HDL might be driven by men retiring regularly, alongside an increase in subjective physical health. Blood pressure also increased, but the effect differs by retirement timing and sex and is not always robust to sensitivity analysis checks. Our study indicates that retirement has an impact on different risk factors for chronic disease, depending on timing, gender and education. Regular male, early female, and low-educated retirees should be further investigated as potential high-risk groups for worsening risk factors after retirement. Future research should investigate if and how these results are linked: in fact, especially in the last two groups, the increases in leisure time physical activity might not be enough to compensate for the loss of work related physical activity, leading thus to an increase in BMI.
Institute of Epidemiology II (EPI2)
Independent Research Group Clinical Epidemiology (KEPI)