MORGANTOWN, Va. — Just because you have more time on your hands when retired doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily use that time to improve your health, a new study finds.
Researchers at West Virginia University sought to examine whether retired, late middle-aged adults better conformed to a healthier lifestyle than those who were still in the workforce.
“We know that full-time work keeps people busy and often unable to find the time for healthy eating and exercise,” says lead researcher Dana King in a university news release. “We decided to investigate whether people who were retiring took advantage of their additional free time to lead a healthier lifestyle.”
The team looked at a sample of 956 individuals between ages 55 and 70 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition and Examination Survey from 2009-2010, and 2011-2012. Researchers compared results from the survey of those who were retired versus those who were not.
It was found that while retired individuals often demonstrate increased levels of physical activity, they don’t have a healthier diet than the average working adult.
The health outcomes of retired individuals as a whole weren’t promising: they had a higher incidence of obesity, along with higher blood pressure and glucose levels than their working counterparts.
It is believed that the disadvantages associated with chronic disease, compounded with the need to take multiple medications for their maladies, may eat up much of the time that seniors could otherwise dedicate to wellness measures.
Previous research had suggested that, for many, retirement signaled an opportunity to make a “new start” in life, part of which included better adherence to recommended levels of exercise and reinforcing healthy habits.
Knowing that there is no positive association between becoming a retired individual and improving one’s lifestyle habits or cardiovascular health, researchers may begin to explore what indeed does promote improved health in retired individuals.
The researchers specifically noted a need for future inquiry to explore the nature of impediments to making health and lifestyle changes found during the transition to retirement.
The study’s findings were published in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine.