woman at work
woman at work
(Image credit: Rex Features (Shutterstock))

Are you looking forward to slowing down come your mid-60s? Relish in the idea of putting a stop to work as soon as possible? New research has suggested that this might be the worst thing you could do - and that we should work until at least our late 60s if we want to stay healthy.

It was announced this week that the state retirement age will increase to 68, more and more people are working for longer. But could this be good for us in terms of our health?

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies, who has published a major report on the health of the baby-boomer generation, has said that people should stay as active as possible for as long as possible, and that work could help us do that. She said "For many people it [retirement] is a chance to take on new challenges. It is certainly not the start of a slower pace of life it once was."

At the centre of her research is the idea that we are now living longer than ever, with medical treatments becoming more advanced than ever before and life expectancy as its highest. Men who live until the age of 65 could now be expected to live for another 19 years, while women who live until the same age can expect to live for another 21 years.

And, according to Dame Sally, working longer could encourage us to stay active, both physically and mentally - more so than retiring could.

Given the traditional retirement age of 60 for women and 65 for men - a number now expected to rise to 66 for each gender - this leaves a lot of time for people to continue to work, and, in Sally's view, to easily keep up a level of activity that they are used to.

And not only can retiring later create keep your mind in shape - it could also help ward off a range of diseases such as dementia, cancer and heart disease. The idea is that you will spend more time out and about, and less time sat inside - increasing your exercise intake and your social interaction. Retiring early could also result in isolation without the daily interaction of the office environment, suggesting that a later retirement age could help. According to Paul Green of Saga, many older people were relieved at the abolition of the Default Retirement Age, which forced people to retire when they reached 60. He said, "It allowed them to work longer and enjoy the social, physical, and mental well-being it gave them."

But fear not - working isn't the only thing that could help you stay healthy in old age. Dame Sally has also stated that people who volunteer or get involved in the community could keep themselves just as healthy as people who keep working past retirement.

So maybe we can take it a bit easier after all...