Almost a million people in Britain are now working past the age of 65 according to official figures showing record numbers shunning the prospect of retirement.
It comes as a study concluded that, rather than giving people a new lease of life, getting retired might have a harmful effect on people’s health.
The study by the think-tank the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) found that although giving up regular work can give people a short-term boost, it appears to trigger a drastic long-term decline in both their physical and mental health.
It argues, controversially, that if the Government pushed up the pension age and removed other red tape discouraging older people from taking on jobs, it would not only boost the economy but make people happier and healthier for longer.
According to new figures from the Office for National Statistics, the number of people aged over 65 in employment in the UK reached a record level of 980,000 in the first quarter of this year
That means that the number of people working past retirement age is growing at more than 10 per cent a year and suggests it will pass the one million mark within months.
The number of people enjoying early retirement has also fallen by almost 90,000 in the last year, according to the regular labour market statistics.
But the number of over-65s taking advantage of retirement has also grown to 9.5 million. It comes as those born at the height of the post-war “baby boom” turned 65, triggering a 30 per cent surge in the number of people reaching retirement age in a single year.
The IEA study compared data from a string surveys across Europe to study the relationship between retirement and health and made statistical adjustments to take into account to fact that many people retire because of ill health and a general connection between getting older and declining health.
It claims that, after those matters had been accounted for, retired people are 40 per cent less likely to assess themselves as being in “very good” or “excellent” health than people the same age who had not yet retired.
They were also 40 per cent more likely to be suffering from clinical depression and as much as 60 per cent more likely to be suffering from some diagnosed condition.
Gabriel Sahlgren, author of the report wrote that it meant that politicians do not face a “trade-off” between improving the health of the older population and increasing economic growth.
“The policy implication is that impediments to continuing paid work in old age should be decreased,” he said.
“This does not necessarily mean that people should be expected to work full time until they die, but rather that public policy should remove the strong financial incentives to retire at earlier ages.”
Philip Booth, a director at the IEA, said: “This research suggests that tolerating a situation where over half of 60-64 year olds are economically inactive is bad economics and bad for people’s health.”
Baroness Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre said: “Lots of employers talk about innovation but far too few deliver.
“Some innovative employers have implemented measures to support older workers but they are few and far between. In the current economic climate it is unlikely that there will be significant financial support available to support getting older people into work so innovation will have to play a part in increasing employment levels.”
But Michelle Mitchell, director general of Age UK, said many people who work beyond 65 do so not out of choice but necessity.
“More and more people aged 65 and over are choosing to work, if they can, in this tough economic climate,” she said.
“For many, the reasons are financial, a result of the decreasing value of pension annuity rates and the rising State Pension Age.
“Others just enjoy the social interaction work brings.
“But this is only one side of the story. Age discrimination is still rife in the UK workplace with almost half of unemployed people aged 50-64 out of work for more than a year.”