Might early retirement actually be bad for us? // Health, longevity, happiness, and a whole bunch of other factors that are impacted by retirement, financial independencewe've learned

Death and Divorce and Unhappiness, Oh My! Might Early Retirement Actually Be Bad for Us?!

If you read any news about retirement, you have no doubt seen headlines like these:

Retiring Early Just Might Kill You, Says New ResearchBloomberg, December 2017

Does Retiring Early Mean an Early Death?The Guardian, May 2016

Study: Retiring Early Might Actually Kill YouUproxx, April 2016

Retiring Too Early Can Kill YouNewsweek, March 2015

And while it’s easy to brush that stuff off and say to ourselves, “Well that’s just talking about regular retirement, and I’m not doing that. I’m aiming for early retirement, and that’s different,” it’s worth examining whether early retirement is truly all that different when it comes to impacts on our health, happiness and life factors like divorce. Just as it was worth digging into that ominous “Won’t you be bored?” question instead of just brushing it off.

So let’s do exactly that. Let’s look at what the evidence says about whether early retirement is good for us or bad for us.

Might early retirement actually be bad for us? // Health, longevity, happiness, and a whole bunch of other factors that are impacted by retirement, financial independence

While we in the FIRE community like to wax poetic about how wonderful early retirement is and how much better life is without work, early retirement is not a magical cure-all.

Case in point: Last week I had a raging six-day migraine and couldn’t blog at all (hence the radio silence here), something that never happened when I was working, stressed out and sleep deprived. My ever-optimistic self hopes that that was just the last hurrah of my migraines, one last, apocalyptic exorcism of the bad brain juju on the path to early retirement happy brain. But more likely I’ll keep getting migraines sometimes, though (I hope) less frequently.

And maybe it was the multi-day stabby/crushy feeling over my right eye, combined with the hangover-style migraine nausea, or maybe it was seeing another fresh round of “Early retirement will totally kill you!” headlines the week before, but I started to wonder if maybe I’d been too quick to dismiss those studies in the past as not really being about us. Maybe it actually was possible that early retirement would lead us down a road toward worse health or greater unhappiness. Could it be?

After all, I’d read stories like this one in Harvard Business Review of former striver careerists who found themselves in the depths of depression after losing their career identities, and I know that mental health is closely linked to physical health. I’d heard the arguments in those doom-and-gloom early retirement stories saying that it’s so much easier to be sedentary when you don’t have to go into work every day and walk around your workplace. I’ve written many times about how easy it is to become socially isolated when your friends are still working and you’ve got this free time, and how critical social networks are to health and longevity.

The idea that early retirement might not be as rosy as we all hoped suddenly seemed a lot more plausible. So I decided to dig into the research. Really dig. Because this is important stuff, and I want to know whether there is anything innate about early retirement that’s bad for us, and if so, what we can do to guard against it.

So what does the research say? Let’s start with the slightly less complicated subjects and build toward health, with its multitude of factors and questions of correlation vs. causation.


According to Rob Pascale, a retired marketing research executive, and Dr. Louis H. Primavera, dean of Touro College School of Health Sciences, co-authors of The Retirement Maze, in that HuffPost story: “Some couples might find they don’t have quite as much in common as they once thought,” they wrote. “While still in the workforce, underlying differences can be masked, because so much attention is taken up by work and raising a family. But these differences can come to the forefront when couples are more focused just on each other.”

They go on to list other factors that make couples feel out-of-sync after retirement, like mismatches in assumptions about who will do what chores (ahem, emotional labor), how they want to spend their time and so on, before dropping in this telling nugget:

Then there is the issue of social over-dependency. Psychologists assert that being socially connected is essential for mental health, and we found that happily retired couples have active social lives with lots of friends. Women seem to grasp this — they are generally more socially integrated, having more and stronger emotional ties to friends and family. Men, in contrast, have fewer close relationships, and many depend on their wives to keep them socially involved. A certain amount of social dependency is reasonable. But for some wives dependency can become extreme. In fact, we found that many men expect to be the primary focus of their wives’ attention when newly retired. This of course is not at all realistic nor is it healthy for either spouse. And many wives might become angry and resentful if they have to surrender more of their personal time than they’d like to.

This gender imbalance pops up again and again in stories about retirement and divorce. Here’s another example:

Miriam Goodman, author of Too Much Togetherness: Surviving Retirement As A Couple found that most of the women she talked to said, “I’m not worried about me, I’m worried about my husband … he’s not allowed to retire because he won’t know what to do.”  Outside of general concerns, many women fear their husband’s retirement because they’re worried about losing their personal time and space, having their spending restricted, or being constantly questioned about where they are going or what they’re doing.

Goodman made the issue very real by noting that Japanese researchers have come up with a clinical diagnosis called Retired Husband Syndrome. “Japanese women were showing up at doctor offices with physiological reactions like rashes, nervous tics, upset stomachs and headaches, which they were able to conclude was a result of a spouse’s recent retirement.”

It’s interesting to note the trends observed by social scientists, but it’s also striking in the divorce stats how much of what goes on in couples is a matter of dynamics that can be changed. Not that it’s easy or obvious how to guard against the problems that can arise at early retirement, but it’s highly possible, especially if you know what to look out for.

In addition, my highly unscientific theory is that the longer your career (meaning the more time you have away from your spouse or partner), the more time you have to grow apart or develop divergent aspirations. In this way, it makes sense that traditional retirement would be more perilous for marriages than would early retirement.

Verdict: Early retirement is a potential danger to marriages and partnerships but you can guard against those problems.


Retirees and satisfaction/happiness

Source: EBRI

And then there’s the whole question of what happiness is, really, and what that has to do with well-being in retirement. This recent New York Times story analyzes recent research to suggest that purpose is the most important factor for both health and fulfillment in retirement, even if purpose doesn’t always look on its surface like “happiness”:

Being a pediatric oncologist, for example, is not a “happy” job, but it may be a very rewarding one. Raising a family can be profoundly meaningful, but parents are often less happy while interacting with their children than exercising or watching television.

Having purpose is linked to a number of positive health outcomes, including better sleep, fewer strokes and heart attacks, and a lower risk of dementia, disability and premature death. Those with a strong sense of purpose are more likely to embrace preventive health services, like mammograms, colonoscopies and flu shots.

And people with high scores on measures of eudaimonic well-being have low levels of pro-inflammatory gene expression; those with high scores on hedonic pleasure have just the opposite.

Doing good, it seems, is better than feeling good.

(If you’re not familiar with the terms — as I wasn’t — “eudaimonic well-being” is the well-being that comes from feeling self-actualized and having a senses of meaning in your life, while “hedonic well-being,” which you may recall from the hedonic treadmill, is seeking of pleasure while avoiding pain.)

Verdict: Early retirement can hurt happiness if it brings financial stress, if you don’t go into it understanding that the transition is going to be stressful and if you don’t spend time in early retirement living with purpose. But if you are well prepared financially, you brace yourself for the stress of the transition and you know what you’re retiring to, there’s no reason why early retirement can’t be the happiest time in your life.


Brace yourself, because this research is all over the map.

In the bad column:

  • A long-term study completed in 2005 (the Shell Oil study) showed that, “Retiring early at 55 or 60 was not associated with better survival than retiring at 65. Mortality was higher in employees who retired at 55 than in those who continued working.”
  • A 2011 study says, “It is found that retirement significantly increases the risk of being diagnosed with a chronic condition. In particular, it raises the risk of a severe cardiovascular disease and cancer. This is also reflected in increased risk factors (e.g. BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure) and increased problems in physical activities. Furthermore, retirement worsens self-assessed health and an underlying health stock.”
  • A 2008 study says, “Complete retirement leads to a 5-14% increase in difficulties associates with mobility and daily activities, 4-6% increase in illnesses, and 6-9% decline in mental health. The adverse health effects are mitigated if the individual is married, engages in physical activity, or continues to work part-time post-retirement. Evidence also suggests larger adverse health effects in the event of involuntary retirement. Retiring at a later age may lessen or postpone poor health outcomes for older adults, raise well-being, and reduce health care services utilization.”
  • A 2017 study on mental health found, “The results display no short-term effects of retirement on mental health, but a large negative longer-term impact.”
  • A 2007 study in Israel found that early retirement did not improve longevity.
  • A 2018 study says, “Overall, subjective health is negatively affected by spousal retirement and positively by own retirement.” (Tying into that earlier stuff about divorce.)

In the good column:

  • A 2010 study showed that, “Retirement did not change the risk of major chronic diseases but was associated with a substantial reduction in mental and physical fatigue and depressive symptoms, particularly among people with chronic diseases.”
  • A 2009 German study found that early retirement does improve longevity significantly for those who were healthy when they retired, by 12% for men and 23% for women.
  • A recent Dutch study of employees offered early retirement at 55 found, “induced early retirement decreased the probability that a man dies within 5 years by 2.6 percentage points.”
  • A 2014 study found that, “Results indicate that the retirement effect on health is beneficial and significant. Investigation into behavioral data, such as smoking and exercise, suggests that retirement may affect health through such channels. With additional leisure time, many retirees practice healthier habits.”
  • A 2017 study‘s authors wrote, “We find that retirement has a long-term detrimental effect on cognition for individuals who retire at the statutory eligibility age. It plays instead a protective role for those who retire on an early retirement scheme.”
  • A 2016 study reported that, “Using official early and normal retirement ages as instruments for retirement, our causal analyses suggest significant positive effects of retirement on meeting the [recommended physical activity] Guidelines. We also show that the effects of retirement on physical activity are larger for persons with higher levels of education and wealth.”

Correlation or Causation?

It’s easy to dismiss studies linking retirement and mortality with the argument that of course we’re going to see this effect because it’s the people who are already sickest who need to retire before they reach age 65. However, as the 2016 Guardian piece sums up pretty well:

You might assume the effect was caused by sicker people retiring earlier and dying prematurely, but this study really tries to take that into account. The researchers analysed data from 2,956 people who were part of the Healthy Retirement Study funded by the National Institute on Aging in America. People were divided into unhealthy and healthy retirees based on whether they said sickness influenced their decision to stop work: about two-thirds were healthy and a third unhealthy. During the 18 years of the study, 12% of the healthy and 25.6% of the unhealthy group died. After taking into account factors such as the healthy group’s better education and finances, they found that healthy retirees who worked a year longer (over the age of 65) had an 11% lower ‘all-cause mortality risk.” Even the unhealthy group reduced their likelihood of dying by 9% if they delayed retirement.

A larger number of the studies I referenced attempted to correct in some way for people in poor health being the ones who tend to retire early. And of course none of the studies looked at early retirement in people’s 30s and 40s — the very earliest “early” retirement analyzed began at age 50. So that’s certainly a gap in what we can look at. But it’s safe to say that quite a few studies show that even people who are healthy when they retire sometimes end up worse off by retiring early than they would have by staying at work. Sobering stuff. Just as many studies show the opposite, but there’s enough critical mass on both sides to tell us that we can’t be cavalier about it.

Verdict: For any of us, early retirement could in fact lead to worse health or earlier death, if we don’t prioritize our health and all the factors that go into that. Staying healthy has to be a front-and-center priority for everyone, but especially for early retirees.

No One Is Just a Statistic

All of that said, if there’s anything that’s clear from seeing how varied these studies’ outcomes are, it’s that individual differences are important, and we each have a lot of say in how early or traditional retirement impacts our health, happiness and relationships. As this Harvard Medical School essay puts it:

If you’ve had a stressful, unrewarding or tiring job, retirement may come as a relief. For you, not working may be associated with better health. People who loved their work and structured their lives around it may see retirement in a different light, especially if they had to retire because of a company age policy. An individual who has a good relationship with his or her spouse or partner is more likely to do well in retirement than someone with an unhappy home life for whom work often offered an escape hatch. People with hobbies, passions, volunteer opportunities and the like generally have little trouble redistributing their “extra” time after they retire. Those who did little beside work may find filling time more of a challenge.

To me, that means that it’s up to any of us considering or living in early retirement to be honest with ourselves about what our pre-FIRE factors are — maybe even think of it as your pre-existing conditions. If work provides some fulfillment, then you have to go into early retirement knowing that you’ll have a bit of a purpose vacuum, and you will have to work a little harder to fill it. If you don’t have many hobbies, then you’ll have extra work figuring out new ways to spend your time that keep you from feeling aimless and lonely. If you lean too hard on your spouse for social time, you have to commit to branching out and creating new social circles on your own. All of that is doable, but only if we can acknowledge that we’re going to have to do the work, and not expect early retirement to magically resolve these challenges for us.

Things That ARE Clear

Looking across all the research, good and bad, several big themes emerge that tie everything together. These are the things we should all be making a point of doing in early retirement, traditional retirement — heck, probably every stage of life!

Stay (Or Get) Active — The number one determinate of health in early retirement, and the best predictor of how many good years each of us will have, is how physically active we are. Get active, stay active and don’t think you can put this off until later.

Stay (Or Get) Socially Engaged — We all need lasting social circles, even the most introverted among us. Make sure you’re keeping your friendships strong and that you have friendships outside of your relationship, if you’re partnered up.

Invest In Your Relationship — For those in a couple, make sure you’re investing in each other every day, not putting it off until early retirement. And make sure you’re communicating about what you want in each stage of life, so you don’t get to early retirement and realize you want totally different things.

Stay Curious — Keeping our minds open and active is critically important to long-term physical and mental health. Always be a learner, and find new ways to learn outside of work once you’re no longer in the workplace.

Live With Purpose — The research is unequivocal: feeling like you have something to live for improves your health and makes you live longer. That purpose might be spiritual, it might be a drive to give back in your community, it might be throwing yourself into something you’re passionate about, it might be your relationships with loved ones or it might be a cat.

Sasha Cohen, the U.S. figure skater who won the silver medal in 2006 wrote an op-ed called “An Olympian’s Guide to Retiring at 25” that ran in the New York Times over the weekend, and I think early retirees and FIRE aspirants will find a lot of resonance in it. While most of us may not feel like we have a lot in common with the world’s best athletes, I bet you can relate to this: “Yes, striving to accomplish a single overarching goal every day means you have grit, determination and resilience. But the ability to pull yourself together mentally and physically in competition is different from the new challenges that await you.”

Even though Sasha is talking to elite athletes who find their careers over in their 20s, her message is exactly the same as what the research suggests: find a new purpose.

So after you retire, travel, write a poem, try to start your own business, stay out a little too late, devote time to something that doesn’t have a clear end goal — in short, do everything you couldn’t do when you were training. There are endless ways to find purpose and meaning after the Olympics. Just give yourself some time. Learn to live for the process again without being defined by the results, the way you did when you first started your sport.

You probably already mentally swapped “career” for “sport,” and “FIRE” for “Olympics.” ;-)

What Do You Think About the Research?

Time to weigh in, and there are so many options here! I bet we all have theories, so share yours in the comments — What’s your take on how applicable retirement research is to early retirees? What do you make of those doom-and-gloom predictions about early retirement? Do you have anything you’re focused on doing in early retirement to guard against bad outcomes? Care to comment on divorce trends and whether they will hold up for early retirees or even just for Gen X or Millennials generally? How about the happiness research? Do you buy that it’s possible early retirement could possibly make someone less happy? Let’s discuss!

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93 replies »

  1. Good to see you’re back at it. Hope you’re feeling better. Interesting post and definitely things that we all need to be thinking about. Three months in, I definitely think that there are way more positives than negatives, but ER is not without its own set of challenges.

    • Thanks, my friend! :-) And I could not agree more that there are so many positives to early retirement, but it’s good to know that we can’t take for granted things like our health and well-being just because we aren’t working. I hope you’re enjoying your ER immensely!

  2. This is fascinating. I have heard about the empty nest/retirement issue with couples suddenly having time together and feeling like they don’t know their spouse. This was actually something we received advice on when expecting our son… we were encouraged to make sure our relationship had a priority in our life (vs. revolving around our son and ignoring/de-prioritizing each other).

    On the Happiness side, this quote resonated with me:

    “Raising a family can be profoundly meaningful, but parents are often less happy while interacting with their children than exercising or watching television.”

    Haha- I was nodding here. I love our son and he is a wonderful addition to our family, but I am not a natural “kid person”. It takes a bit of internal encouragement to sit down and play with blocks or color with him when I have my own to-do list and goals looming in front of me, but I also find that there is a meaningfulness and purpose in these interactions with my son. I can see how a retirement (early or not) without some purpose, some sense of helping others, could lead to a lonely, depressing state of mind. Even if it is just helping a neighbor once a week or volunteering for a local organization once a month, finding the something to work for outside of oneself is key.

    I’m sorry you weren’t feeling well last week but I’m glad you are back! I hope you had a good time skiing :)

    • The last week has been skiing-filled, which has been wonderful! :-) Your point about time with your son reminds me of several things that are meaningful, including writing. Like I don’t always love writing itself, but love that I do it and love having done it. It absolutely carries meaning even if it’s not always the most enjoyable thing I could be doing. Not that I’m comparing my little blog to, you know, the momentous thing of raising a child, of course. ;-) But couldn’t agree more that purpose is SO critical in all stages of life, but in early retirement there might not be as many natural ways to get that, so you might have to be a bit more resourceful than usual. ;-)

  3. For you personally, I think your migraines are a result of your work-detox. Prescription: Take to more years off and call me the next year.

    The research being all over the map doesn’t surprise me. I always joke that I can predict newspaper headlines in the year 2100 “New study says coffee bad for you”, followed the next day by “New study shows benefits of coffee”. While coffee should be something we can figure out, something as complicated as retirement with all of the different variables for each person would seem extremely difficult to get a hold on. What really matters is what you ended your article with, the things that are clear. Those always matter, retired or not.

    • Oh my gosh, I hope so much that you’re right about the migraines! And it’s absolutely true that health studies are often conflicting, and for the sake of brevity (ha!) I didn’t go into methodological critiques on the ones here, many of which are TINY sample size, or only men, or only marginally “early.” Certainly none of us are statistics and we have many factors that dictate our health, but it’s still interesting to note some of the potential pitfalls for health especially so we can make a point of avoiding them, and as you said, those things are good advice for all stages of life, not just early retirement.

  4. OH, you’ve hit on something!

    “Invest In Your Relationship”

    My husband last year kept trying to get me a new phone because my current phone is old and buggy. Sometimes I don’t get his messages and he doesn’t get mine because my phone bugged out sending them. I didn’t feel like our conversation is that important (if it was we call) so I told him no. Because frugal! But had he phrased it as in investment in our communication, man, would I have folded.

    • Does it help if I insist that you get a new phone?! GO GET A NEW PHONE THAT WORKS! ;-)

      (Oh, also, it’s possible I’m also talking through you to Mark, whose phone is garbage at this point, but he won’t get a new one and it’s making me nuts. Hahahahahaa.)

  5. Have you ever read or heard of The Blue Zones? It’s focused on longevity as opposed to early retirement, but very relevant to early (or aspiring early) retirees IMHO :) A bunch of researchers studied areas in the world with the longest lived people and the findings were similar to yours.

    Essentially they found that longevity isn’t just about physical health (diet and exercise), but also very much about having purpose (Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.”), belonging, and a strong sense of family.

    It definitely echoes what you were able to pull out of these studies – curious on your opinion if you have come across The Blue Zones research or read the book, and if you think it’s a useful addition to your research? https://bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/

    PS – loved this post! I’m usually more of a lurking reader but this one inspired me to comment :-)

    • I am a new resident of a blue zone and it’s something that appears in our local news all the time! My town is currently doing a speaker series on it. It’s fascinating! And yes, similar advice to what’s posted above.

      • We almost made a quick trip to Okinawa when we were in Taiwan (it’s a short flight), but ultimately decided we’d go to Okinawa when we do our next Japan trip, which will be much longer than our two weeks last year!

      • Check out Dan Buettner’s book, the blue zones of happiness. Talks about the common characteristics of the blue zones around the world. We are creating our final home/community with blue zone characteristics in mind. He also has a great Instagram feed as does blue zones.

    • I also think this is the key. It took my first year of early retirement to figure out my new purpose. My favorite line in the blog “know what you’re retiring to”.

      • It’ll be so interesting to see if that stays the same for you over time or changes. I think my new motto might be: “Know what you’re retiring to, at least at first… until you figure out what you’re REALLY retiring to.” ;-) (It could use a little tightening. hahahaha.)

    • I have heard of Blue Zones, and I read that book! It was interesting how completely different the diets tend to be in those places, and at times it seemed a bit of a stretch to draw commonalities between the lifestyles. But the sense of purpose was absolutely clear, as you said, and there’s plenty of other research to suggest this, including — if I’m remembering correctly — among hospice nurses and doctors who were surveyed about what people voiced as their most common regrets at the end of life. (I believe it was closer relationships, purpose, and not expressing their love enough. But my memory of that may be off so don’t cite me.) ;-) Thanks for commenting, too! Nice to put a name and ideas to readers who read but don’t comment! :-D

  6. Wow, this is a very well researched post, great work!

    My dad died at 48 within a year of him leaving his job. I’ve often wondered if it would have made any difference if he’d stayed. Ultimately I’ll never know, but I think your conclusions ensure a path to success for any early retiree.

    • That must have been so tough losing your dad so young! The stats on death within a year of retirement draw a pretty clear correlation, but that’s usually among must older people than your dad, and many of them have to retire because they’re sick. And I sure hope that those conclusions can help many of us stay healthy for lots and lots of years to come!

  7. Very nice research!

    All I can say is that I’ve been FIREd for almost 6 years and I’m happier, fitter, and have more zest for life than I did before I FIREd. I realize this is just a sample size of one, but just sayin. :)

    • Thanks! That’s terrific that you’re on the positive stat side of the column — glad to hear it! The research suggests lots of good reasons for that, but all that matters to you is YOUR reasons. ;-)

  8. It’s great you collected all that data & research in one place – it’s clear that people need to plan for a post-retirement life before it happens or you’re left rudderless. I think the planning/prep is so heavy to get to FIRE that many folks don’t consider life after it… even though so many people (like Olympians!) have and continue to deal with it.

    • That Olympian piece really hit home for me, because these are people who are world-class in their sport, which you sort of assume means that they are winning at life. And they usually “retire” when they are young and resilient and able to adapt to something new, but still they struggle. And if they struggle, then the rest of us sure as hell better put some thought into life after retirement, or we’re in trouble. ;-)

  9. The retired husband syndrome really resonated with me. Mr. ThreeYear can definitely rely on me for entertainment sometimes. He’s much better when he’s found a few good friends or a new class at the gym. I think you’re right in that early retirement/shifting expectations earlier, rather than later, can help couples overcome some of the difficulties in having lots of time together. Also I’m really looking forward to working out together in retirement (or at least going to the gym together, even if we end up taking different classes!).

    • That data suggests that your situation is pretty darn common! The good thing is that you know that and can plan to counteract it. ;-) I think getting to go to the gym together sounds mighty exciting! That’s one thing I miss about the big city — more classes at the gym! We have so few options here, at least at the gym, but the outdoor opportunities more than make up for it. :-)

  10. A lot of your observations are real, we experience some of this with Mrs. Shirts already being retired while I finish my “victory lap”. The adjustment is real and will continue to be an adjustment.

    There’s also so much controversy around using the word “retire”, this is one of the reasons. So few of the actual retirees 100% retired and doing nothing. Its a badge of honor to say we don’t have to work, but will continue to be productive humans whether or not there’s payment involved!

    • “Retirement” has a weirdly age-specific branding problem. Does anyone ask a 75-year-old who does a little consulting on the side or who works a fun part-time job whether they’re actually retired?! Of course not. But if you’re under 60, then you’re only retired if you sit on the couch all day. Hahahaha. Okay, I’ll get off that soapbox. ;-) It’s interesting to hear that you’ve experienced some of this, and I do think it’s realistic to expect the adjustment to take a while, especially if two partners don’t quit at the same time. So I’ll echo back to you the advice that everyone who’s been retired a while has given us: Give it time! ;-)

  11. I am so sorry about your six day migraine! I struggle with them too, and I know how debilitating they can be. My father actually chose retirement from pharmacy at 62 for this very reason. After two years of “early” retirement, he still wrestles with them regularly. I hoped things would be different once he left his extremely stressful career. The truth is, he has found other things to stress out — the house, finances, health, and their kitten! :/

    Thanks for compiling all this research (and recommendations!) Have you found it easier to focus on any of these things in retirement?

    • It was rough, not gonna lie. Sorry you get them, too, and that they were bad enough to make your dad retire. (Yikes.) Though what a good reminder to focus on not stressing out about things generally. Easier said than done, of course!

      As to your question, I would not say that we’ve found any of those recommendations easier so far other than spending more time with friends. I can actually say yes to things now! But I’m not drawing any conclusions yet because we’re still so new at this. :-)

  12. Great observations and analysis of research – I love that you dig into this stuff.

    sucks about your migraine though :(

    I think the biggest thing is “Live With Purpose” – and I think outside of the FIRE community, people don’t get that most folks who pursue FIRE are the type of folks who wish to pursue what they believe to be their purpose without the weight of a 9-5 necessarily being on their shoulders.

    • Thanks! That’s an interesting thought about assumptions non-FIRErs might make. I still think they mostly don’t think about us at all (haha), but I bet you’re right about some of them at least!

  13. Such a great article–thanks for pulling this together for us! I’m almost two years in to ER and a lot of this resonates with me.

    I need a reason to get out of bed–mornings are my alone time when I can do my writing and reading. I have a bunch of time to fill when my friends are at the office and I need fun, social exercise–Pickleball is my answer.

    But, ER doesn’t change who you are. I’ve always been a reluctant exerciser unless there was a social aspect. Having more time doesn’t change this. For me, having Mr. retired too actually makes exercise less appealing as it’s kind of fun to be lazy together. Clearly I have some work to do . . .

    • Thanks, Liz! :-) And I can SO relate to all of this! Mark has always been a naturally later sleeper than I am, and there are plenty of days when I’m up way before him, but I just stay in bed on my phone instead of getting up. Doh! And yeah, I’m way more motivated to do the active stuff we do together like skiing than I am pretty much everything else. ;-) I need to try to find some friends who want to meet up for regular exercise!

    • I had assumed that, too! But sadly, it appears that’s not necessarily so. :-( Which means we just all have a bit more work to do! ;-)

  14. Ugh migraines, sorry you had such a doozy of one.

    I enjoy reading this type of research but know you can’t put too much weight on any of it alone. One thing I think is pretty clear is that when you ‘retire’ from a career, you need to make other things your job. Things like your health. If people would put as much effort into themselves as they did their jobs this research might look a whole lot different.

    Hopefully we are doing these things while working, but once retired we can (and should) focus more on exercise – aerobic, strength training, flexibility and balance, etc.; nutrition – home cooked meals, gardening perhaps; creative projects, volunteering, engaging with others, and so much more.

    As to divorce…I think you hit on it well. If you’ve not grown together over the years but instead have grown apart, it will be hard to adjust to being in each others space all of the sudden. Relationships take work, sometimes I think we forget that.

    • I’m thankful at least that it wasn’t my most intense migraine ever, just my longest. (Look on the bright side, right?) ;-) And I think your last point actually applies to everything here — we do truly have to work at staying healthy, happy and connected. I think there’s a persistent idea that ER will cure us, and in fact we need to work at our health and social connections and partnerships just as if, as you said, they were our jobs. :-) So it’s not retiring to a life of no work, it’s just retiring to different work.

  15. There was so much here that I had to simply bookmark half of it to return to later.

    One thing that I thought was interesting is that while reading this, I had an open browser to a NYT article: “The Connection Between Retiring Early and Living Longer”


    I haven’t unpacked either article to form any kind of informed opinion, but I thought it was worth pointing out.

  16. Glad to hear you’re feeling better, and hope that was the last horrible hurrah of the migraines!

    This is a bunch of interesting research, and I think it shows that early retirement is likely to amplify who you already are. On the exercise front, it’s interesting because on the surface of things, I’d think trading in 7+ hours of sedentary desk work would be an opportunity to easily get more movement in your retired life. But then again I can see how easy it would be to trade sitting at a desk for sitting on the couch in front of the tv/computer/a book (will I need to be very mindful of this post 9-5 life despite the fact that I value health and fitness? Absolutely!).

    • Oh my gosh, I hope so! (fingers and toes crossed!) I love how you put it: ER amplifies who you already are. I think that’s true, because there’s so much less forcing you to be what you’re not, which is the experience most of us have at work. And though I know we’re still in the detox phase, it truly is amazing how magnetic that couch is. ;-)

  17. As a fellow migraine sufferer, I can confirm that they don’t just disappear. For me, I think the frequency was significantly reduced (but not the severity).

    As far as the health studies — I’m still very much alive and in good health after FIRE! I walk frequently and eat a low-meat diet. I also have a couple different ‘purposes’ in life that keep me going. Social interaction is definitely a challenge (everyone else is at work), but I’m working on that.

    There’s absolutely no reason why I should suddenly keel over! If anything, my mental health is better and my physical health is the same (or even better).

    • Oh Mr. Tako, way to be Debbie Downer. Womp womp! (Just kidding — I always appreciate the truth.) ;-) It’s wonderful that you’re doing so well on diet and exercise, and that you’ve identified social connections as an area for growth. If this were a performance evaluation, you’d be doing quite well! Hahaha.

  18. I find this discussion really interesting (hence, why I am commenting on this post rather than just reading like I usually do). Both of my parents are retired teachers. My father worked an additional paid job in the evenings and summer. He retired early from teaching in his late 40’s but added more hours in at his second job (so he didn’t really retire). My mom traditionally retired in her early 60’s from teaching and my dad retired, mostly due to medical issues a few years ago. My mom has taken up new hobbies and goes out with her friends to lunch, movies, plays, etc. She loves retirement. My dad has been…lost since he fully retired and it’s so sad. It’s hard to know what came first. Did he start to cognitively decline when he retired and lost his purpose? Or was the decline inevitable due to genetics/lifestyle or some other factor and became more apparent once he retired? I found the discussion about the differences between men and women and how they handle retirement interesting and will have to think about it/research it more.

    I have no doubt you and your husband will do well in “retirement” since you have so many interests you have already cultivated. And who knows what else you will find interesting down the road and want to pursue. The great thing about financial independence is that it gives you the option to pursue your curiosity in life.

    Hope your migraines subside and you continue to feel better in the long-term.

    • Hi Lindsay — thanks for jumping into the discussion! :-) I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. The research absolutely suggests that he’s not alone, but I’m sure that’s of little comfort. Hearing stories like yours and seeing the research on health and retirement for men do make me alarmed at times about many of the discussions in the FI community. Given that most FI bloggers are male, and the people who struggle most with retirement are male, it at least seems worth talking about this stuff more and encouraging men especially to cultivate more interests well before they pull the plug. Thanks so much for the well wishes! Here’s hoping headaches become less frequent from here on out.

  19. Great read, Tanja. As you noted in our PF Chat, having a purpose post RE is critical for a whole host of reasons.

    I hope the balanced research in this post, especially on health, is better received than when I wrote about potential cognitive decline in early retirement, citing the Mental Retirement study by Rohwedder and Willis. The debates I had on Reddit and the MMM forums left a sour taste in my mouth with our community: I was expecting a thoughtful debate.

    I found that many of us (though certainly not all!) don’t want to hear about there being any costs to go along with the benefits of early retirement.

    • Maybe I should create a competitor to YNAB called YOU NEED A PURPOSE (YNAP). Hahahaha. But for real. And you know your mistake on that post wasn’t writing it — it was jumping in on the forums! ;-) I can only imagine what has been said about this on Reddit, but I’m not going to go find out. I do think you’re right that lots of folks want to see ER as magical and a cure-all, which it’s not. I understand why, of course, but staying willfully ignorant to the potential pitfalls just seems so much worse than doing a little life planning before you leave a career. (Though the tone of comments here was very civil as it almost always is, you’ll still see plenty of folks wanting to invalidate the research in minor ways.)

  20. It’s going to take me some time to unpack this one. Some great links and comments already. As for the transition, I’m still a fan of our approach, FISL (FI + sabbaticals for life). Having done 6 sabbaticals up to this point, I can confidently say my wife and I have crossed the bridge of how we coexist outside of traditional work structure. The FI part was achieved long ago as well & I really liked a link from PoF Sunday in the calculation of a wealth ratio (basically net worth / lifetime earnings). For us, we spend a ton of time together and always have. I like the 5 parts you ended the post with and agree with them all. Health should be easier to attain post work. Social, learning & purpose need to be found to replace the same at work, but can be much richer. Work doesn’t end when work stops though. A special day that can occur frequently is when you learn something that contradicts a long held belief. Have you thought about doing some research of your own using a cohort you put together? Interviews with some that are further along than you guys on a similar journey, long term tracking of others at different but predictable hurdles along the way? Especially interesting is sentiment when things go wrong, not right. It’s easy when markets are soaring, confidence is high, people are unified … I went back to my journal at the end of the year and tried to correlate the tone of my entries and wasn’t too much of a surprise when my tone was positive and negative. I’ve found that writing things down, either a journal and/or blog, is very helpful in being able to occasionally go back and gain some insight. Common themes come out and it is always obvious that there are endless things to improve on and do.

    • Oh man, that research you’re suggesting sounds a lot like WORK! ;-) Hahaha. I have thought about doing this, actually, but don’t currently have the mental bandwidth. Maybe soon! I continue to be so glad for you guys that you’ve found a model that works for you with the mini retirements. I have wondered plenty of times how different the mindset is when you know you have plenty of time to relax and do stuff but it’s also finite vs. essentially infinite. Would we have spent so much time just lounging in January and February if we knew we had to go back to work in July, or would we have gotten off our butts more? Impossible to know, but it’s an interesting question! And your journal point is super interesting. If you go back through this blog, I bet you could draw some correlations between tone and where we were in the last election cycle. ;-)

  21. 6 day migraine?! Man, that’s definite suckville!

    Like you and other commenters mentioned, finding a new purpose is key to doing what you ahve control of, in staying as healthy as you can. Like the post I wrote about “find your Ikigai”, it was the same thing. People with a sense of purpose lived longer and were reportedly more happy than others with no sense of purpose. It didn’t even have to be amazing or mind blowing, but something as simple as “tea with a friend each day, and tending the garden” was enough to make someone have the drive to live longer than someone without a purpose.

    That sums up all of your main points in this article. Have a good social network, i.e. friends you can hang out with outside of the home, stay helathy keeps your mobility higher to see your friends, and finding the new “retired” you and figure out what makes that person tick. Gives you new opportunities for sense of purpose to keep you alive even longer.

    Sure all this can be negated by genes, accidents, and other health issues, but by focusing on what we can control, you set yourself up for the best outcome possible.

    • Suckville is right! hahahaha. And I couldn’t agree more on purpose — did you happen to see the link in here about the guy who found purpose… by having a cat?! It doesn’t have to be anything major, but it needs to be something.

  22. I love this post – another well researched gem.
    I also absolutely loved the article on emotional labour that you linked to. Ive had my husband read it an he looked a bit perplexed… so we will work on that.

    Much much sympathy on your six day migraine, that is just… ugh. The worse I ever had was 3 days and that was enough (haha, more than enough).

    • Thanks, Maria! :-) And glad you enjoyed the emotional labor piece, too! We’ve been hearing feedback from when we talked about it on the podcast that a lot of guys need some time to process it, but then come around, so give it time.

  23. I think feeling something, like early retirement, out with flexibility is a great way to approaching a life change. Big changes often cascade into other changes, like divorce. It could very well be any life event thatcame first would have encouraged the switch.

    • It’s a great point. It’s so hard to disaggregate factors in research like this, and as that stress list shows, ALL big life changes are super stressful and can kick off health effects and relationship impacts.

  24. Wow! All that research is like going on WebMD. Have a sniffle – you’re dying. Cough – you’re dying. Think it’s a beautiful day – you must definitely be dying. Here’s some medication to help with that. By the way, that medication just increased your chance of…you guessed it – dying. 😂

    The “things that are clear” part is the only piece that I think matters. Focus on that and you should be golden.

    Less happy by retiring early? Hmmmm…who’s trying to scare all of us from such a desirable goal? No thank you.

    • Hahahaa — true! At least I didn’t tell you that you have cancer like WebMD always does. ;-) And while I agree that the conclusions are the part that matter, I do think it’s important to be realistic doing into this that early retirement isn’t automatically a magic ticket to happyville. We have to do some work to make sure we have a healthy, happy retirement, and it’s better to go into it knowing that rather than be blindsided by this fact later on. ;-)

  25. Poverty, poor health, divorce, and other bad outcomes are all related to each other. In the broad population, people drawing Social Security at 62 are mostly doing so because they have to. No matter how much the researchers try to correct for this, they can’t. The right data are not present in their data sets.

    Readers of this blog make up a pretty small group who are very different from the average person collecting Social Security at 62. I don’t think these studies have much to say to the blog readers.

    • No argument on whether the data are perfect here. Folks who retire extremely early are still too small a sample size to be studied, so we’re not going to get any perfect analogues. But I do think it’s a mistake to write this stuff off entirely and assume none of it could possibly apply to any of us. If we go into early retirement accepting that we’re going to have to do some work to ensure we stay healthy and happy, we’ll be far better off than if we expect early retirement to work like magic. :-)

  26. I’d like to echo everyone else’s comments about being glad that you’re feeling better. I don’t suffer from migraines, though from what I’ve heard, I wouldn’t wish them on anybody.

    I so appreciate the thoroughness of your posts. You’ve done a wonderful job of aggregating and structuring many of the points that I’ve read about early retirement and retirement in general; about not retiring to the couch, staying mentally engaged, identifying your purpose, taking care of your health, building your social network, etc.

    While Patchy and I are late to the party, starting with the idea a little less than 2 years ago when we bought our “forever home” that we wanted to be able to walk away when the mortgage was paid, to we could probably pay it off a year early and be done, to I wonder how fast we could actually pay this darn thing off and be done. And then we found the FIRE community blogs and got hooked. We’re mainly looking at the FI portion of FIRE since right now we’re on pace to hit that 9 years and 4 months from now at 61 and 52 respectively and are working to move that point to the left as much as possible.

    Having said all of that and starting to imagine life beyond mandatory work, we’ve been trying to set things in place now so it can be a transition to things that fill us and can expand to fill our time, rather than a nebulous dream of things that we could do “when we have the time” which makes me afraid that we’ll end up sitting on the couch doing nothing. And then I worry that it’s an irrational fear because we’re not all that capable of sitting on the couch now. So we’re trying to make friends outside of work and are trying to find volunteer opportunities, and buy the things now that support our hobbies while we’re working rather than needing them later on a fixed income.

    And since we’re doing this later in life, we’re also looking as FI as a hedge against a mid-50’s layoff and the life-shortening stress and anxiety that it can cause. Patchy’s job is very stable and he could probably work there until he was 80 if he wanted to. Mine is not. It’s pretty lucrative, but it’s also not kind to those above 50 as far as remaining employed, so we’re trying to hedge our bets and reach an exit ramp before that age.

    • Thanks so much, Megan! :-D I love how your plans have progressed so quickly — it makes me feel confident you’ll shave some more time off your timeline. I think it’s so smart to get ahead of any potential ageism you might encounter at work and to set yourself up to be okay no matter what happens. And it sounds like you’re smart as well on some of the life and health planning stuff. I do agree 100% that thinking amorphously about the future makes it easier to retire to the couch rather than already having things in place that you do often. I have written about what I call “chapter overlap,” meaning having big parts of your life that you do both before retiring and after (for me it’s the blog and podcast, and for Mark it’s the nonprofit board he chairs, in addition to our outdoor hobbies) so that you don’t retire and suddenly feel aimless. And I think the same should apply to exercise habits and social circles so you don’t get to your destination and then realize that you have a huge new mountain to climb to get in shape and to make friends. How discouraging that would feel!

  27. First, I’m glad you’re feeling better! I can only imagine that kind of migraine, and it sounds bad.

    This isn’t a criticism of you, Tanja, but I don’t think you can really compare all these studies unless they make it crystal clear what they mean by “retirement” and it’s the same across them all. They could be/likely are studying very different cohorts of people (not even considering the pre-existing poor health part of things).

    Colloquially, when people use the word retired, they mean not working any more – the reason the IRP come after early retirees – and nothing else. The only criterion is unemployment; there is no recognized definition of early retirement, or healthy retirement, or any other kind that includes further expectations. If someone retired early and sat on their butt on the couch watching TV 15 hours a day (or on a beach chair watching the horizon), I’m not surprised they died early.

    It literally doesn’t matter to me, though; if you told me I’m cutting my life short by 5 or 10 years, I’d rather live life on my own terms and go out early than drag on endlessly while drudging through meaningless work.

    • Thank you for the well wishes! And I agree completely on the data — I didn’t want the post to get any longer, so didn’t mention that several of the studies (on both sides) also have very small sample sizes. And none are large-scale epidemiological studies. So we don’t have any perfect answers here. BUT, I still think the conclusions are pretty straightforward and also match conclusions on longevity generally, which is pretty convenient. ;-) So I don’t think you have to make that trade of any amount of time so long as you’re willing to put in the work to stay healthy and socially engaged.

  28. I’d indeed be careful to assign weight to these studies, depending on how well they were performed. Studies on smaller groups, studies with less-well defined study objects or specific outcomes, studies who lost track of some of the participants, studies who might use the wrong type of statistical tools for their exact questions … for all those I would have a hard time taking their results serious.

    Also, your trust on a specific claim should depend on how strong their findings were (things can be statistically significantly different, but not “clinically” different – for example, if a study finds that retired people live on average one week shorter (so say 30.23 years of retirement versus 30.25 years of retirement), then they may prove that this is statistically significant, but it hardly warrants the “oh my, they live less long!” headlines (it’s not really an important difference, is it?).

    All in all, I’m still taking my chances when I can. After all, I’d rather have 40 years of early retirement (say age 42 to 82) than 20 years or normal retirement (age 65 to 85 – yes, living three years longer…).

    • That’s why you’ll note I didn’t even attempt to weight the studies! ;-) (And the strongest data was actually on the death rates within a year of retirement. That stuff should make everyone sit up and pay attention.) But to me it’s irresponsible to just dismiss all the studies that point to a negative outcome when we could instead ask, “Okay, so if those are true, what can we do to mitigate those effects?” The good news is that I don’t think it’s that hard to mitigate them if we know that we need to do it. To me it’s a no-brainer to take the steps that give us the best chance, especially because they are just as linked to happiness as they are to health. :-)

  29. Great post and much of what I’m worried about in deciding to pull the trigger to RE. I hate “jobs” (not just my job specifically, but every one I’ve pretty much ever had), but I’m terrified that I can’t trust myself to stay (in particular, mentally/socially) healthy after RE. My father retired a couple years “early” (age 60) and was dead within 2 years, having pursued no hobbies or purpose. My mother retired a couple of years ago, just shy of age 65 and is a MODEL retiree – pursuing activities she never had (exercise like tai-chi and square dancing), hobbies she never had (art), and volunteering, not to mention political activism. And she’s made a lot of friends through it, which I particularly note, since I think I am a lot like her and need that kind of help making new friends. So I have a good model, but here’s the problem with her model, and the main reason I’m posting instead of just agreeing with all the other posts here:

    Sometimes pursuing your purpose, or more applicable to my mom’s model, staying socially connected and active, require spending money. Which is hard for us frugal FIRE folks!

    How much extra money should I build into my retirement budget to play pickleball, take art and language classes and other activities where I can run into like-minded folks that have similar schedules to mine? While I will prioritize volunteering and political activism (which should mostly be cost-free except for potluck type things or buying tea at the coffee shop we meet at), I know the part I’m going to have to work the hardest at is building a strong social network for weekdays and that hard work, combined with keeping it low-cost….well, I guess it’s a good thing I’ll have a lot of time on my hands to solve that puzzle! I certainly am scared about solving it and don’t feel like I really can until I am in it. But what if I suck at it? As I said at the top, this is probably the #1 obstacle in my pulling the trigger to RE – and I’m not sure what more I should do now to prepare or build confidence. I welcome all suggestions!

    • I admire you for being so clear-eyed about the pitfalls of early retirement! A lot of FIRE folks are not ready to admit that FIRE isn’t a magical cure-all, so kudos to you for looking at the examples your parents set as well as at your own tendencies! My initial reaction to your question is that if your budget is so small that it wouldn’t allow you to do things like get coffee or play pickleball, or take local art classes at a rec center, that it’s far too lean a budget. Those are all very low-cost activities, and I sure hope you have built in enough flexibility into your plan to allow for things like that. If not, perhaps given your anxiety, perhaps it’s worth working just a bit longer to get clear on what you want to do with your time and to build up a bigger cushion. Because, as you said, you might not be initially good at it, or might want to change your plans, and it’s also so important to make sure you have enough flexibility built into your financial plan that you CAN change your mind, by moving, taking on different hobbies, etc. All good questions to be asking yourself! :-)

  30. Interesting post and well researched. Good to put out a balanced piece to encourage people to think very carefully before taking such a big step. I gave up my career as a lawyer just over 2 years ago, after being in the job for 30 years. I left in my mid 50s so not as young as you guys. I currently do a very different job in adult social care as and when it suits me, on average about 4/5 days a month. Quite a lot of adjustment is needed after giving up work and it’s advisable to do a lot of thinking and planning before taking the plunge. Two years on, I can say I feel energised and liberated and look forward to trying and learning lots of new things for as long as possible.

    • Thank you! I think it’s so important to be clear-eyed about these big decisions. Just as there’e no risk-free investing or saving, there’s no risk-free way to live, and we should all verse ourselves in the risks of our chosen path. Okay, getting off that soapbox! ;-) I’m so glad that you figured out a new life rhythm and have work that is meaningful to you but not draining. Your new life sounds fantastic!

  31. I’m glad that migraine is over!

    I am curious if the relationship problems described above apply to queer pairings. A lot of it seems to be one gender’s culture of relying too heavily on emotional support from another gender. It would be fascinating to see the physical and mental health outcomes for two ladies who FIRE or regular retire together.

    • Oh my gosh, thank you! That headache was crazy.

      Obviously the research was looking at married couples in the past, so only hetero, which is obviously problematic and limiting. And it’s totally based on old models of gender roles. Because Gen X and Gen Y are still too young to be retiring in large numbers, we don’t yet know if those trends will continue to play out in generations where at least some couples have more progressive ideas about gender and roles, or if that’s a past relic. (Let’s hope!) But agree with you that it WOULD be fascinating to see trends among other types of relationships/partnerships!

  32. For migraines, try some Theraspecs that block a wavelength of light that supposedly triggers migraines. I have one pair for daily use and one for computer/reading. I’ve been migraine-free since November (knock on wood). You’ll look like Bono. Computer screens, snow cover, bright light from being closer to the sun and dry high altitude air are triggers for me. It’s a cheap thing to try to get your functional days back.

    • You’ll laugh but probably understand — I am the weirdo who wears sunglasses outside from the first hint of dawn until the last moment before darkness, regardless of cloud cover. It has to be a full-on thunderstorm for me to take the tint away from my eyes. :-) And I’m a religious believer in blue-blocking lenses for screens. So there’s definitely always something in front of my eyeballs unless I’m sleeping. Hahaha.

  33. I think having a plan for what you’re going to do wit your time after retirement is a completely undervalued part of the retirement planning process, regardless of what age you retire at! As someone at the beginning of their journey to early retirement – it’s hard to plan now for what I’ll do when I retire. I don’t know what my interests will be 15+ years from now. BUT I do know its important to keep thinking about it as time goes on so when the time to retire does come, I am prepared.

    • That’s truly what matters — knowing that you need to have a plan before you get there, not having every answer now, or even at the point when you quit. (Sometimes I think of it as having a plan to make a plan.) ;-) Plenty of the stuff you’ll figure out after you get to retirement, but you need to go into it with SOME idea of where you’ll start looking. :-)

  34. This data is quite interesting but somehow all the early retirees I know (and I know very few IRL and only a few more online) don’t seem to fit these types of categories though I think your take-aways are spot on whether you fit a category or not. I admit to having some days where I accomplish very little, but I am finding that I’m more curious about all sorts of different things and I’m kind of running with that curiosity. I know the stock phrase is to make sure you know what you are going to do after you retire but just like the categories of issues retirees may have, I don’t think all of us early retirees need to have all sorts of stuff in front of us to do. I’m just not in that season of my life and over the course of the 8 months since I retired, I’ve found my intellectual curiosity again and I’m enjoying pursuing those interests and glad I didn’t set a course ahead of time. I find my best and happiest days are ones where I don’t get anywhere near a computer and I mean absolutely no disrespect from this comment, but I’ve been less interested in reading and commenting on blog. I find that when I’m on the computer, it starts to feel like work again and I start to slip back into unhealthy patterns of behavior. I set timers and walk away and that helps. It’s just so hard to find the balance! The minimalism class is on the computer so while it’s been awesome and really there is no better way to take the class, I find if I don’t have a plan ahead of time, I’m not having a productive day. Thank you for doing so much research! That looks like it was a lot of work.

    • Ha — no offense taken. ;-) I agree that everyone should have screen-free chunks of time! And whenever I’m feeling grumpy, the answer is virtually always to get away from the computer. Hahaha.

      To the point about early retirees fitting or not fitting the mold, I will say that I have heard from a lot of folks over time who are not doing the work on the social side of things. Most are in a good relationship so have the partner social interaction, but they’re otherwise slightly isolated. I’ve heard it enough from folks in varied life situations to think it’s not uncommon, and that’s why I continue to push hard on this point. Casual acquaintances are great, but the research is clear that we need friends we can rely on outside of our primary relationships to be healthy over the long term.

  35. As an near-daily user of PubMed (online resource for health and biomedical research articles), just wanted to say two thumbs up for taking a data-informed approach to this question! Although the scientist in me got a little twitchy until I got to the correlation vs. causation section, which you explained well. I do think that many of the studies, despite attention to methodological detail, might not have been able to control completely for factors such as health status at retirement or drop in income post-retirement. Had they had perfect information to put into their statistical models you might not see much of an effect at all, or maybe even the opposite effect. But I think your take-home points are sound regardless of how strong the scientific evidence is.

    • Thank you! I wanted to make the point about the attempts to correct for factors to counter those who dismiss any studies of retirees out of hand as just “That’s because the sickest people retire earliest.” But you’re absolutely right that none of these studies are longitudinal, most are looking at a small sample size or a very particular population, and we could keep listing other limitations all day long! But I do think it’s important to absorb the larger point which is that early retirement isn’t magical, it won’t do all the work for us to keep us healthy or happy, and we still have to take responsibility for ourselves. :-) Thanks for the thumbs up!

  36. Very informative post and though I won’t necessarily pump the brakes on my path to FIRE, it does give you pause to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you do make the transition.

  37. That headache that feeling like a knife going into your eye socket? You might want to try eliminating wine, aged cheese, and chocolate – those are common triggers for cluster migraines. Mostly, it’s men who get them (I’m also an exception), and they can last for days or even WEEKS. Oh, and also watch out for MSG.