Why do Older Workers with Chronic Health Conditions Prefer to Retire Early?


Older workers experiencing chronic health conditions (CHCs) are more likely to retire early. The different pathways through which CHCs stimulate retirement preferences, however, remain largely unexplored.


We present a more comprehensive model in which we test the different pathways through which four specific CHCs—arthritis, cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders and psychological disorders—influence early retirement preferences. We hypothesize that the association between CHCs and early retirement preferences is differentially mediated by subjective life expectancy (SLE), perceived health-related work limitations (HRWL) and vitality.


We collected data from 5,696 wage-employed older workers (60 to 64 years) in the Netherlands in 2015. Regression models were estimated to examine the associations between CHCs and early retirement preferences. Mediation analysis with the Karlson, Holm and Breen method was used to examine potential mediation pathways.


SLE, HRWL and vitality mediated the association between CHCs and older workers’ early retirement preferences. The dominant mediator differed depending on the CHC. Severe HRWL predominantly guided the retirement preferences of older workers with arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Lower vitality mainly mediated retirement preferences of older workers with sleep and psychological disorders. Lower SLE was a significant mediation pathway for older workers with cardiovascular diseases.


HRWL and vitality play a major role in determining retirement preferences of older workers experiencing CHCs. Since both mediators are modifiable, targeted interventions may not only extend older workers’ working lives, but also improve the quality of their working lives.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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