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Low prevalence of depression and anxiety is linked to statutory retirement ages rather than personal work exit: a national survey



Background. Common mental disorder prevalence decreases substantially around the conventional retirement age for men in the UK, but trends for older women are more continuous. Prevalence changes in depression and anxiety around retirement are less clear, as is the role of risk factors. The aim of this study was to establish whether work status, age or other known risk factors account for the reduced prevalence of depressive episode and anxiety disorder around retirement ages for men and for women.

Method. The British Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (BPMS) 2000 was analysed, including 1875 men and 2253 women aged 45–75 years. Diagnoses were from the Revised Clinical Interview Schedule (CIS-R). Logistic models were adjusted for sociodemographic factors, social network, work status, life events, physical illness and disability.

Results. There are marked reductions in the prevalence of depressive episode after 60 years for women [60% lower prevalence, 95% confidence interval (CI) 40–80] and 65 years for men (90% lower prevalence, 95% CI 70–100), compared to the youngest age groups. For anxiety disorder, the reduction in prevalence was 80% (95% CI 60–90) for men and 40% (95% CI 20–60) for women. In fully adjusted multivariate models, the strong association between diagnoses and age groups remained, for both genders. Work status was a significant factor for men but not for women.

Conclusion. There is a discontinuity in the prevalence of depressive episode for both men and women, coinciding with statutory retirement ages. No studied risk factor reduced the associations between age group and disorders. This population scale recovery may provide a model for understanding non-genetic factors.


Corresponding author

Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Room L3/22, Peninsula Medical School, RD&E Wonford Site, Barrack Road, Exeter EX2 5DW, UK. (Email:


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