Skip to content

Journal Article

Retirement and socioeconomic differences in diurnal cortisol: longitudinal evidence from a cohort of British civil servants

Authors

Publication date

Mar 2018

Summary

Objectives: Early old age and the period around retirement are associated with a widening in socioeconomic inequalities in health. There are few studies that address the stress-biological factors related to this widening. This study examined whether retirement is associated with more advantageous (steeper) diurnal cortisol profiles, and differences in this association by occupational grade. Method: Data from the 7th (2002–2004), 8th (2006), and 9th (2007–09) phases of the London-based Whitehall II civil servants study were analysed. Thousand hundred and forty three respondents who were employed at phase 8 (mean age 59.9 years) and who had salivary cortisol measured from five samples collected across the day at phases 7 and 9 were analysed. Results: Retirement was associated with steeper diurnal slopes compared to those who remained in work. Employees in the lowest grades had flatter diurnal cortisol slopes compared to those in the highest grades. Low-grade retirees in particular had flatter diurnal slopes compared to high-grade retirees. Discussion: Socioeconomic differences in a biomarker associated with stress increase, rather than decrease, around the retirement period. These biological differences associated with transitions into retirement for different occupational groups may partly explain the pattern of widening social inequalities in health in early old age.

Published in

Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences

Volume and page numbers

73 , 447 -456

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbx058

ISSN

16

Subjects

Older People, Labour Market, Health, Life Course Analysis, Social Stratification, and Biology

Notes

© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America.; Open Access; This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Related publications

  1. High earners can expect relaxing retirement but stress RISES for lower paid

    Tarani Chandola, Patrick Rouxel, Michael G. Marmot, et al.

  2. Retirement is no less stressful than working - especially if you had a lower paid, undemanding job, study finds

    Tarani Chandola, Patrick Rouxel, Michael G. Marmot, et al.

  3. It’s official: your boss is less stressed than you!

    Tarani Chandola, Patrick Rouxel, Michael G. Marmot, et al.

  4. Being retired is no less stressful than working – unless you were in a top job

    Tarani Chandola, Patrick Rouxel, Michael G. Marmot, et al.

#524337


Research home

Research home

News

Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author

Podcasts

Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society

Projects

Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs

Events

Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report

Themes

Key research themes and areas of interest