Healthier Lifestyles after Retirement in Europe? Evidence from SHARE. European Journal of Health Economics, vol. 18, pp. 805-830
This paper investigates changes in health behaviours upon retirement, using data drawn from the Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe. By exploiting changes in eligibility rules for early and statutory retirement, we identify the causal effect of retiring from work on smoking, alcohol drinking, engagement in physical activity and visits to the general practitioner or specialist. We provide evidence about individual heterogeneous effects related to gender, education, net wealth, early-life conditions and job characteristics. Our main results––obtained using fixed-effect two-stage least squares––show that changes in health behaviours occur upon retirement and may be a key mechanism through which the latter affects health. In particular, the probability of not practicing any physical activity decreases significantly after retirement, and this effect is stronger for individuals with higher education. We also find that different frameworks of European healthcare systems (i.e. countries with or without a gate-keeping system to regulate the access to specialist services) matter in shaping individuals’ health behaviours after retirement. Our findings provide important information for the design of policies aiming to promote healthy lifestyles in later life, by identifying those who are potential target individuals and which factors may affect their behaviour. Our results also suggest the importance of policies promoting healthy lifestyles well before the end of the working life in order to anticipate the benefits deriving from individuals’ health investments.