Abstract

This study examined whether retirement was associated with weight change among older men and women. Women, who retired from blue-collar jobs and were normal weight upon retiring, were more likely to gain weight following retirement. Association between retirement and weight change was not evident among men. This study suggests that specific population groups, such as women retiring from blue-collar jobs, can experience significant weight gain following their retirement, health professionals should be able to identify potentially high-risk groups for obesity and other health conditions. With this information, health professionals may offer appropriate and tailored preventive efforts to this population. Background: This study determined whether retirement was associated with either weight gain or weight loss among older men and women. Obesity is a national health crisis and an aggravating factor in the onset of several health conditions. Knowing factors which can influence weight change can help policy-makers and health professionals identify potential targets and initiate tailored interventions for preventive efforts. Retirement is a common life event which may lead to weight changes as a result of lifestyle changes, such as being less physically active and having less structured meal times. Therefore, this study examined whether or not the retired population was at risk of obesity.

Methods: A sample of 4,815 men and 5,335 women aged 53 to 63 were interviewed every 2 years between 1994 and 2002. Weight change was expressed as percent change in Body Mass Index. Weight change was defined as having at least a 5% decline in weight from the previous time point (weight loss), having at least a 5% increase in weight from the previous time point (weight gain), and not having a significant change in weight from the previous time point (no change). Participants were categorized into two groups; those who reported retiring during the 2-year period and those who remained in the workforce. The relationship between retirement status and weight change was examined. A separate analysis was conducted for individuals who were identified as overweight/obese and normal weight at the time of retirement, individuals who retired from blue-collar and white-collar professions, and for men and women.

Findings: Women who retired were more likely to gain weight than women who continued to work at least 20 hours per week. This association was evident among women who had normal weight upon retiring but not for women who were overweight at the time of retirement. With respect to the type of work, the association between retirement and weight gain was found among women who were working in blue-collar professions, but not among those who were working in white-collar professions. No association between retirement and weight change was found among men.

Conclusions: Retirement was associated with at least a 5% weight gain among women working in bluecollar professions, who were of normal weight upon retirement. However, the results were not significant for men. These findings have important implications for improving the health of older adults retiring from the workforce. Knowing that specific population groups (i.e. women retiring from blue-collar jobs) can experience significant weight gain following their retirement, health professionals can identify potentially high-risk groups for obesity. Moreover, given the strong association between obesity and cardiovascular diseases, this finding contributes to our understanding of factors leading to the onset of other health conditions among older adults. With this information, health professionals may offer appropriate and tailored preventive efforts to this population. For example, health professionals can raise awareness regarding this issue, especially among women approaching the age of retirement.

References

Forman-Hoffman VL, Richardson KK, Yankey JW, Hillis SL, Wallace RB, Wolinsky FD. Retirement and weight changes among men and women in the Health and Retirement Study. The Journal of Gerontology. 2008; 63B: S146-S153.