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By guest blogger, on 24 April 2019

Where you live in your 20s affects when you retire – here’s how

File 20190417 139116 1aozy2a.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Where you decide to live will impact your career. Shutterstock.

Emily Murray, UCL

Across the globe, people are living longer. Many countries – including the UK – have responded by raising the age of retirement. By 2028, UK citizens will need to be 67 years old to receive their state pension, and further increases have been recommended by both government and independent reviews.

But there’s one major issue with this: most employees in the UK already stop working before the current state pension age of 65. For some, early retirement can be a positive life change which means they can afford to stop working. But for others, early retirement is a result of poor health or unemployment, which can eat into savings and widen inequalities among older people.

Previous studies have shown that in areas where there are more unemployed people, older people are also more likely to leave the workforce. In the past, researchers thought this was because older workers are more likely to be made redundant and have a harder time finding another job when they are unemployed.


Read more: Where people live influences whether they stop working before pension age


But our new research shows that the link between local unemployment and retirement age actually depends on where people live as young adults. Specifically, people in their 20s who live in areas where there are fewer jobs are more likely to be unemployed and in poor health at mid-life – and these are two significant causes of early retirement.

A lifelong study

My colleagues and I at the Research on Extended Working Lives (RenEWL) consortium set out to understand this phenomenon using data from the 1946 British birth cohort study – a representative sample of all British people born in one week in March 1946 across England, Scotland and Wales.

There were 2,526 cohort members, who told us whether they had retired from their main occupation or were still in work. First, we explored where they had lived in childhood (at age four), young adulthood (age 26) and mid-life (age 53). Then, for all three ages, we looked at census data to find out how many working-age people in their local authority were unemployed at the time.

History matters. Shutterstock.

By the age of 68, more than 80% of the people in the cohort had retired, with the average age of retirement being around 59 years. As seen in previous studies, those who lived in areas with higher levels of unemployment at mid-life, also tended to retire earlier. For each 5% increase in local unemployment, people retired on average roughly 1.5 years earlier.

Long-term effects

But when we started to delve into where cohort members had lived earlier in their lives – as well as considering their health, employment and education history – we realised just how strongly unemployment levels in the local area during early adulthood continued to affect people throughout their lives.

If a cohort member lived in a local authority where there was more unemployment than average as a child, it was also likely that they would live somewhere similar as an adult. And those who lived in areas with higher than average unemployment rates as young adults then went on to have poorer health and were more likely to be unemployed at mid-life – compared with those who lived in areas with lower unemployment rates.

Researchers have found that health and employment status strongly predict what age people retire. We found this as well, with cohort members who were unemployed at mid-life retiring on average about five years earlier than those who were working full time at the same age.

What’s more, we found that the link between where people live in their mid-life and their retirement age can actually be traced right back to where they lived in their 20s. So the experiences people had when they were younger had a long term impact on their health and employment status at mid-life.

For example, someone who had moved in their early 20s to Guildford, where there was high employment, was more likely to still be in work when they reached mid-life, than someone who had lived in their 20s in Glasgow – where unemployment was high – regardless of where either lived later in life (although it is likely both will have lived in the same or equivalent employment area in their 50s).

Our findings imply that people should think carefully about how where they live⁠ ⁠might affect⁠ ⁠t⁠h⁠e⁠i⁠r⁠ ⁠c⁠a⁠r⁠e⁠e⁠r⁠.⁠ ⁠P⁠e⁠o⁠p⁠l⁠e⁠ ⁠seem to k⁠n⁠o⁠w⁠ ⁠t⁠h⁠a⁠t⁠ ⁠i⁠t⁠’⁠s⁠ ⁠e⁠a⁠s⁠i⁠e⁠r⁠ ⁠t⁠o⁠ ⁠g⁠e⁠t⁠ ⁠a⁠ ⁠j⁠o⁠b⁠ ⁠i⁠n⁠ ⁠a⁠r⁠e⁠a⁠s⁠ ⁠where there are more jobs available – indeed, graduates tend to migrate into urban centres with more employment opportunities. ⁠O⁠u⁠r⁠ ⁠r⁠e⁠s⁠e⁠a⁠r⁠c⁠h⁠ ⁠s⁠h⁠o⁠w⁠s⁠ ⁠t⁠h⁠a⁠t⁠ ⁠t⁠h⁠e⁠s⁠e⁠ ⁠e⁠a⁠r⁠l⁠y⁠ ⁠c⁠a⁠r⁠e⁠e⁠r⁠ ⁠d⁠e⁠c⁠i⁠s⁠i⁠o⁠n⁠s⁠ ⁠c⁠a⁠n⁠ ⁠h⁠a⁠v⁠e⁠ ⁠c⁠o⁠n⁠s⁠e⁠q⁠u⁠e⁠n⁠c⁠e⁠s⁠ ⁠i⁠n⁠t⁠o⁠ ⁠p⁠e⁠o⁠p⁠l⁠e⁠’⁠s⁠ ⁠r⁠e⁠t⁠i⁠r⁠e⁠m⁠e⁠n⁠t⁠ ⁠y⁠e⁠a⁠r⁠s⁠.

If the government wants to encourage people to stay in work longer, it should give older workers the support they need to stay in work and in good health. It could also help them maintain their employment, even when they’re not in the best of health – for example by adapting workplaces for older workers, or encouraging flexible working. By improving job opportunities for young people living in places with high unemployment, it could help people to keep working for

Where you live in your 20s affects when you retire – here’s how

File 20190417 139116 1aozy2a.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Where you decide to live will impact your career. Shutterstock.

Emily Murray, UCL

Across the globe, people are living longer. Many countries – including the UK – have responded by raising the age of retirement. By 2028, UK citizens will need to be 67 years old to receive their state pension, and further increases have been recommended by both government and independent reviews.

But there’s one major issue with this: most employees in the UK already stop working before the current state pension age of 65. For some, early retirement can be a positive life change which means they can afford to stop working. But for others, early retirement is a result of poor health or unemployment, which can eat into savings and widen inequalities among older people.

Previous studies have shown that in areas where there are more unemployed people, older people are also more likely to leave the workforce. In the past, researchers thought this was because older workers are more likely to be made redundant and have a harder time finding another job when they are unemployed.


Read more: Where people live influences whether they stop working before pension age


But our new research shows that the link between local unemployment and retirement age actually depends on where people live as young adults. Specifically, people in their 20s who live in areas where there are fewer jobs are more likely to be unemployed and in poor health at mid-life – and these are two significant causes of early retirement.

A lifelong study

My colleagues and I at the Research on Extended Working Lives (RenEWL) consortium set out to understand this phenomenon using data from the 1946 British birth cohort study – a representative sample of all British people born in one week in March 1946 across England, Scotland and Wales.

There were 2,526 cohort members, who told us whether they had retired from their main occupation or were still in work. First, we explored where they had lived in childhood (at age four), young adulthood (age 26) and mid-life (age 53). Then, for all three ages, we looked at census data to find out how many working-age people in their local authority were unemployed at the time.

History matters. Shutterstock.

By the age of 68, more than 80% of the people in the cohort had retired, with the average age of retirement being around 59 years. As seen in previous studies, those who lived in areas with higher levels of unemployment at mid-life, also tended to retire earlier. For each 5% increase in local unemployment, people retired on average roughly 1.5 years earlier.

Long-term effects

But when we started to delve into where cohort members had lived earlier in their lives – as well as considering their health, employment and education history – we realised just how strongly unemployment levels in the local area during early adulthood continued to affect people throughout their lives.

If a cohort member lived in a local authority where there was more unemployment than average as a child, it was also likely that they would live somewhere similar as an adult. And those who lived in areas with higher than average unemployment rates as young adults then went on to have poorer health and were more likely to be unemployed at mid-life – compared with those who lived in areas with lower unemployment rates.

Researchers have found that health and employment status strongly predict what age people retire. We found this as well, with cohort members who were unemployed at mid-life retiring on average about five years earlier than those who were working full time at the same age.

What’s more, we found that the link between where people live in their mid-life and their retirement age can actually be traced right back to where they lived in their 20s. So the experiences people had when they were younger had a long term impact on their health and employment status at mid-life.

For example, someone who had moved in their early 20s to Guildford, where there was high employment, was more likely to still be in work when they reached mid-life, than someone who had lived in their 20s in Glasgow – where unemployment was high – regardless of where either lived later in life (although it is likely both will have lived in the same or equivalent employment area in their 50s).

Our findings imply that people should think carefully about how where they live⁠ ⁠might affect⁠ ⁠t⁠h⁠e⁠i⁠r⁠ ⁠c⁠a⁠r⁠e⁠e⁠r⁠.⁠ ⁠P⁠e⁠o⁠p⁠l⁠e⁠ ⁠seem to k⁠n⁠o⁠w⁠ ⁠t⁠h⁠a⁠t⁠ ⁠i⁠t⁠’⁠s⁠ ⁠e⁠a⁠s⁠i⁠e⁠r⁠ ⁠t⁠o⁠ ⁠g⁠e⁠t⁠ ⁠a⁠ ⁠j⁠o⁠b⁠ ⁠i⁠n⁠ ⁠a⁠r⁠e⁠a⁠s⁠ ⁠where there are more jobs available – indeed, graduates tend to migrate into urban centres with more employment opportunities. ⁠O⁠u⁠r⁠ ⁠r⁠e⁠s⁠e⁠a⁠r⁠c⁠h⁠ ⁠s⁠h⁠o⁠w⁠s⁠ ⁠t⁠h⁠a⁠t⁠ ⁠t⁠h⁠e⁠s⁠e⁠ ⁠e⁠a⁠r⁠l⁠y⁠ ⁠c⁠a⁠r⁠e⁠e⁠r⁠ ⁠d⁠e⁠c⁠i⁠s⁠i⁠o⁠n⁠s⁠ ⁠c⁠a⁠n⁠ ⁠h⁠a⁠v⁠e⁠ ⁠c⁠o⁠n⁠s⁠e⁠q⁠u⁠e⁠n⁠c⁠e⁠s⁠ ⁠i⁠n⁠t⁠o⁠ ⁠p⁠e⁠o⁠p⁠l⁠e⁠’⁠s⁠ ⁠r⁠e⁠t⁠i⁠r⁠e⁠m⁠e⁠n⁠t⁠ ⁠y⁠e⁠a⁠r⁠s⁠.

If the government wants to encourage people to stay in work longer, it should give older workers the support they need to stay in work and in good health. It could also help them maintain their employment, even when they’re not in the best of health – for example by adapting workplaces for older workers, or encouraging flexible working. By improving job opportunities for young people living in places with high unemployment, it could help people to keep working for longer.The Conversation

Emily Murray, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Emily Murray, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why we need health examination surveys to understand health and health risks

By guest blogger, on 16 November 2018

Would you let a stranger into your home? Would you then answer questions about yourself, your family and your health for an hour or so? Luckily, 10,000 people in England do so every year. Most also allow the interviewer to measure their height and weight. Many agree to a nurse visiting them later. The nurse measures their waist and blood pressure and takes blood, urine or saliva samples.

The Health Survey for England (HSE) is one of the biggest and longest-running health examination surveys in the world. It is organised by NatCen Social Research and UCL. What makes the HSE unique in the UK is that we take these measurements and we ask the general population – anyone living in a private home. We don’t rely only on questions (a ‘health interview survey’). We don’t rely only on information collected by the NHS. We work on three surveys at a time. We are currently: writing the report for the 2017 survey, running the 2018 survey, and preparing for the 2019 survey. We always obtain approval from an NHS Research Ethics Committee for the questions and measurements we plan to include before we start the survey.

Why is this important? Most people report that they are taller than they actually are, and weigh less than they actually do. Relying on self-reported information underestimates how big the obesity problem is in England. People who have undiagnosed diseases cannot tell us about them. By measuring blood pressure, we can find out how many people have high blood pressure (‘hypertension’) but don’t know it. We do the same for diabetes by measuring blood sugar levels. We also collect saliva to measure cotinine. This is made by the body when exposed to nicotine. Smokers have high levels. Non-smokers have measurable cotinine if they spend time in places where other people smoke. Although levels are much lower, it shows they are exposed to the thousands of harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke.

The HSE has been running since 1991. Some information on how health and health risk factors have changed over time has been put onto the HSE website. Obesity in children increased from the early 1990s to the early 2000s. It fell a little but is still too high. We also showed that waist circumference has increased in teenagers even more than general obesity. In adults, too, obesity increased in the 1990s to the mid-2000s. It hasn’t changed much in recent years. However, waist circumference continues to rise. This is more worrying as it is a marker of ‘abdominal obesity’, with fat collecting in the abdomen. This gives people a high risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or some types of cancer.

There is also good news in the health trends. The proportion of adults who smoke cigarettes has fallen from 27% in 1993 to 18% in 2016. Even where parents smoke, the proportion who try to keep their home smoke free has increased.[i] In 2006, two-thirds of non-smoking children had cotinine in their saliva, because of exposure to other people’s smoke. By 2014/15, this had fallen to just over one-third of non-smoking children. The management of high blood pressure is much better than it used to be.[ii] However, it still needs to improve further.

The Health Survey for England 2016 report provided information on many topics. 16% of children, 26% of men and 27% of women were obese. Chronic liver disease was most common in adults aged 55 to 64 years. Almost one in five adults (19%) had probable mental illness. Almost one in four adults (24%) had taken three or more prescribed medicines in the previous seven days. 66% of men and 58% of women met the aerobic physical activity guidelines.

Cases of diabetes are on the rise. Is that because more people are becoming diabetic or because doctors are better at finding those people? HSE data show that both are happening. At one time, for every diagnosed case of diabetes, there were two more people with undiagnosed diabetes. By 2013, 7% of people had diabetes. Four-fifths were diagnosed.[iii] In other words, there were eight people with diagnosed diabetes for every two who didn’t know they had diabetes. A great improvement.

UCL staff are analysing data on adult health; combinations of health risk factors; and circulatory diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes. NatCen staff are analysing data on social care; adult and child obesity; and health of children. Watch out on the UCL, NatCen and NHS Digital websites (listed below) and in the news to see what we find. And if you ever receive a letter inviting you to take part in the HSE, please do!

Professor Jennifer Mindell is a public health doctor who has also worked in general practice and health promotion. She is interested in policies outside the health services that affect health and inequalities. She leads the UCL team dealing with the Health Survey for England and other health examination surveys in the UK; comparative work across Europe (EHES); and a comparison project (ESARU) across the Americas and the UK. Prior to this, she was the Deputy Director of the London Health Observatory. She led health impact assessments (HIAs) of the London Mayor’s Transport and other strategies. She was the chief investigator for a large research project at UCL, Street Mobility. This developed tools to measure the barrier effect of busy roads and the effects on local people. She chairs the UK Faculty of Public Health’s Health Improvement Committee and sits on the FPH Health Policy Committee. She is the health lead for the UCL Transport Institute. She is also Editor-in-chief of the new, award-winning Journal of Transport and Health. She was also very involved nationally in tobacco control for many years. See Jenny Mindell’s IRIS profile web page

For more information about the Health Survey for England, visit the following websites:

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[i] Jarvis M, Sims M, Gilmore A, Mindell JS. Impact of smoke-free legislation on children’s exposure to passive smoking: cotinine data from the Health Survey for England. Tobacco Control. 2012;21:18-23. https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/21/1/18

[ii] Falaschetti E, Mindell JS, Knott C, Poulter N. Hypertension management in England: a serial cross-sectional study from 1994 to 2011. Lancet. 2014;383:1912-9. https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0140673614606887

[iii] Moody A, Cowley G, NgFat L, Mindell JS. Social inequalities in prevalence of diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes and impaired glucose regulation in participants in the Health Surveys for England series. BMJ Open. 2016;6:e010155. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/2/e010155