The Social Gradient in Health: How Fair Retirement could make a Difference

Public Health Ethics 3 (3):272-281 (2010)
Social inequalities in health in the UK persist despite attempts to reduce them. We argue that work and pensions constitutes an area of intervention where there is potential to make change happen. We propose that workers who are exposed to significant health risks through their occupation should be allowed to draw their state pension earlier, based on a minimum number of years in the workforce. We model this proposal on similar policies in other European countries. In our modification, the pension age and the retirement age would be separated, such that workers can receive a state pension whether or not they choose to continue working. This arrangement may encourage workers either to reduce their working hours or to change to less demanding or harmful work. The health of these workers would thereby benefit from reduced exposure to a harmful work environment, reduced stress and more opportunities for rest and relaxation. However, it has also been suggested that retirement is bad for mental health. In response, our proposal enables workers to phase in full retirement over a period of part-time work, and we believe that this would counter any potential negative effects on health caused by retirement
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DOI 10.1093/phe/phq021
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