Obesity With Comorbid Depression and Early Retirement

Posted: 27 Jun 2007

Date Written: June 2007


Over half the American population is overweight, nearly one quarter of Americans are obese. It is evident that this epidemic is increasingly taking its toll on both the physical and mental health of the population. Increasing number of studies point out to the relationship between obesity and mental health. Researchers agree on the fact that obesity is most often accompanied by depression. Whether depression leads to obesity or obesity causes depression is unclear but a recent study showed that obesity in women was associated with a 37% increase in major depression. Population based studies also report that obesity is associated with an approximately 25% increase in odds of lifetime diagnosis of major depression. Adverse health effects of obesity and comorbid depression may present problems at workplace. For example, high body mass index (BMI) is found to be associated with reduced cognitive abilities among older working-age adults. Some researchers argue that obesity coupled with depression can trigger diminished engagement in rewarding behavior and consequently diminish cognitive abilities. Thus, obesity and comorbid depression may have important effects on labor market participation decisions of working-age adults. We know that majority of workers who choose to withdraw from the labor market and retire early (e.g. before age 62 in the US) report health problems as an important reason for their early retirement decision. Opportunity cost of an extra day of work may be higher for individuals who are close to retirement since they feel the protection of accumulated benefits through the private pension plans and/or social security. However, societal costs of early retirement can not be ignorable. A recent analysis suggests a cost estimate of early retirement around 5 percent of the potential annual US output. To date, there has been no studies reported in the literature assessing the extent to which obesity with comorbid depression contributes to early retirement decisions of older working-age adults. This study fills this significant gap in the policy-relevant literature by understanding how obesity with comorbid depression affect early retirement decisions of older working-age adults - those between the ages of 50 and 62.

We use data from the US Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) which contains questions on labor market participation, health status, functional ability, cognition, family structure. We implement several multivariate analyses including Cox regression, difference-in-difference analysis, and instrumental variables method. Results suggest that obesity with comorbid depression significantly reduces the likelihood of labor force participation when compared with three groups; people only with obesity problem, people only with depression, and people with none of these two conditions. We also observe a gradient effect by the severity of obesity and depression as the individuals with higher BMI and comorbid depression experience higher rates of early retirement. Understanding the economic impact of early retirement that is associated with obesity and comorbid depression would help employers, health care providers, and policy makers develop effective strategies to improve the productivity and health among older working-age adults.

Keywords: Early Retirement, Obesity, Depression

JEL Classification: I12, J26

Suggested Citation

Karakus, Mustafa C. and Okunade, Albert A., Obesity With Comorbid Depression and Early Retirement (June 2007). iHEA 2007 6th World Congress: Explorations in Health Economics Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=992241

Mustafa C. Karakus (Contact Author)

WESTAT ( email )

1650 Research Blvd.
Rockville, MD 20850
United States

Albert A. Okunade

University of Memphis ( email )

Memphis, TN 38152
Memphis, TN usa 38152-3370
United States

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