Why older doctors want to keep working

Many older doctors say they don’t plan to retire any time soon, citing financial stress and anxiety about ageing as reasons for their reluctance to kick back and take it easy.

A study of more than 1000 Australian doctors aged 55-plus has found that a third have no clear retirement plans.

Doctors cite the central role work plays in their lives and the sense of purpose the job engenders as yet more reason to stay in the job.

The researchers suggest that being a doctor is so closely linked with self-identity, that it makes retirement “threatening”.

They note that of the doctors who intend to retire, 33% are not able to nominate a specific time.

And the anticipated retirement age for those who do have a time increases progressively with age.

The study also shows a number of differences between age groups in the reasons for either anticipating retirement or continuing to work.

Not surprisingly, those aged 55-64 years are more likely to nominate financial factors as a reason to keep working.

Older doctors say they want to work while they are still in good health and because they value a sense of purpose in life more than leisure time.

The authors note women were more likely than men to follow a spouse into retirement and that men were more likely to continue working because of the wishes of a partner or family.

Among the specialities, GPs and psychiatrists are the least likely to cite retirement plans.

“Our findings are relevant to developing education and support programs for assisting late career medical practitioners to transition to retirement,” the researchers write in the Medical Journal of Australia.