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Retirement marks the end of a person’s working career, but retirees in recent decades have radically redefined what it means to be retired. Today, retirees are often active in a variety of areas and may even pursue part- or full-time employment after leaving behind a career of many years. Whatever form it takes, there are several major advantages of retirement.

Stress Reduction

Jobs are a major source of stress for many people, and retirement may offer relief. By removing the need to perform to a high standard and meet specific targets, or the anxiety that may come from interacting with superiors and customers, retirement can be good for a retiree’s mental and physical health.

Health Benefits

Because it usually occurs late in life, retirement is often associated with a time of poor or fading health. However, retirees have more time to sleep, exercise and choose or prepare healthful foods–making retirement an opportunity to actually improve overall health. Many retirees take up an athletic hobby, such as golf or walking, which can easily be carried over into later life and promote longevity. In the Whitehall II study researchers followed British Civil Servants to examine the health impacts of people who retired at the age of 60. The research showed that the individual’s mental health improved after retiring.

Retiring earlier could also lengthen your life, as concluded from a 2017 study in the journal Health Economics. In that study, Hans Bloemen, Stefan Hochguertel and Jochem Zweerink — all economists from the Netherlands — looked at what happened when, in 2005, some Dutch civil servants could temporarily qualify for early retirement.

Only those at least 55 years old and with at least 10 years of continuous service with contributions to the public sector pension fund were eligible. Men responding to the early retirement offer were 2.6 percentage points less likely to die over the next five years than those who did not retire early.

The Dutch study echoes those from other countries. An analysis in the United States found about seven years of retirement can be as good for health as reducing the chance of getting a serious disease (like diabetes or heart conditions) by 20 percent. Positive health effects of retirement have also been found by studies

Philanthropy

Many retirees use their new-found free time and accumulated wealth to become involved in philanthropic activities. From making charitable donations to serving on the board of a community foundation, this type of activity provides a chance for retirees to use the skills and experience they developed over the course of a lifetime to meet the needs of the community.

Family Involvement

Retirement offers the advantage of allowing more time and energy to spend with family members. The classic instance of retired grandparents serving as babysitters is only the most common example. Retirees can use their new lifestyle to spend more time with adult children, distant family members, retired siblings and close friends.

A New Lifestyle

Finally, retirement has the advantage of being one of the few times in life when many people can freely rearrange their lifestyle and its priorities. Spending more time on a hobby, following an intellectual pursuit or traveling can define an entirely new way of life, especially if a career dominated much of a person’s time commitments prior to retirement.

In the end, the researchers explain the potentially life-extending effects of retiring in two ways. For one, retiring frees you up, allowing you more time to invest in your health. That benefits you whether you’re sleeping more, exercising or simply going to the doctor as soon as an issue appears.

Second, work can be stressful, while retirement can alleviate that stress, and stress can create hypertension, a risk factor for various potentially fatal conditions. Retirees in this study were significantly less likely to die from stroke or from cardiovascular diseases.

Leaving your job can come at a cost but it does give you more free time. And as long as you are spending that time wisely, you might be able to enjoy a more fulfilling life.