The Role of Social Context in the Relationship Between Health and Retirement

TitleThe Role of Social Context in the Relationship Between Health and Retirement
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsMcNamara, TK
Date Published2003
UniversityBoston College
KeywordsAdult children, Event History/Life Cycle, Health Conditions and Status, Retirement Planning and Satisfaction

While many studies have evaluated the effects of health on the retirement decision, these studies have typically paid less attention to the multi-level nature of the context within which individuals and couples make retirement decisions. Using data from waves 1 (1992) through 5 (2000) of the Health and Retirement Study, the present study addresses the multi-level nature of social context and its effects on the relationship between health and retirement. In three linked subanalyses, particular attention was paid to how three core concepts of life course theory (i.e., the social clock, the interdependence of family and work trajectories, and the role of institutions in shaping inequalities) might help to clarify the relationship between health, retirement, and social context. The results of this study indicate that social context, as embodied by internalized norms, social groups, and institutional structures, moderates the relationship between retirement and poor health. More specifically, the analysis of the social clock (micro-level context) indicates that internalized expectations about the correct time to retire influence whether a nonworking person considers themselves retired. Workers in poor health are disproportionately likely to consider themselves "unretired", nonworking but not retired. The analysis of the interdependence of work and family (meso-level context) found that couples jointly evaluated the husbands' and wives' health statuses when making reverse retirement decisions, but not necessarily when making retirement decisions. The analysis of the role of institutions in shaping inequalities focused on the effects of employer policies beneficial to workers in poor health. The effects of two types of policies, employer flexibility in number of hours worked and employer provided health insurance, were examined. While it is not feasible for one study to address all aspects of social context, the present study highlights the relationship between health and retirement on several levels.

Endnote Keywords

Retirement Behavior

Endnote ID


Short TitleThe Role of Social Context in the Relationship Between Health and Retirement
Citation Key5999