CHICAGO, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- A new study of the University of Michigan (UM) finds that the pre-retirement generation in U.S. today has more health problems and health-related limits on their lives than prior generations did when they were in their late 50s.
UM researchers used data from the Health and Retirement Study and the National Health Interview Survey, and grouped older Americans into five birth cohorts: those who were born in 1937 or earlier and could receive full Social Security benefits at 65; those who were born during 1938-1942 and could claim benefits sometimes during the year they turned 65; those who were born between 1943-1954 and could claim at age 66; those who were born between 1955-1959 and can claim full benefits somewhere between ages 66 and 67; and those who were born in 1960-1962 and are the first group to have to wait until age 67 to collect their full Social Security benefit.
They found that older workers today face more challenges than their predecessors as they continue to work, seek work, apply for Social Security disability payments, or try to retire on other income over the next decade.
"Other research has found similar trends in the health of Americans who are now in the 50s and 60s, but this is the first study to look specifically at groups, or cohorts, of Americans by Social Security retirement age, which has specific policy implications," said Hwa Jung Choi, lead author of the study and an economist and demographer at UM Medical School.
"We found that younger cohorts are facing more burdensome health issues, even as they have to wait until an older age to retire, so they will have to do so in poorer health," said Robert Schoeni, an economist and demographer at UM.
U.S. enacted a change in the federal retirement age in 1983. At that time, demographers predicted that people were likely to live longer on average than their parents' generations.
"They were focusing on life expectancy, not morbidity, and implicitly assuming that improvements in mortality would be accompanied by similar improvements in health or morbidity," Choi said.
"As policymakers talk of making the retirement age even later, these findings suggest that to fully understand the benefits and costs of such a policy, we must realize that raising the retirement age may further exacerbate the inequality between cohorts born only a few years apart, because the younger ones may find it more challenging to work beyond age 67," Schoeni said.
The study has been published in the new issue of Health Affairs.