The transition from work to retirement is a major life event with substantial changes in everyday life. How do people cope with these changes? What contributes to continuity and change in psychological health over the retirement transition? In the Health, Aging and Retirement Transitions in Sweden (HEARTS) project, we focus on the psychological process of retirement, and investigate changes in health, well-being and lifestyle in the years before and following retirement.
Rapid demographic change, with a growing proportion of older adults and financial incentives to increase the retirement age, additionally highlights the need to better understand the opportunities and challenges associated with a prolonged working life. The HEARTS project therefore aims to further investigate the role of work in later life and the extent to which continued labor force participation, beyond the normative retirement age, influences health and well-being.
The project started in the spring of 2015, when a nationally representative sample of 14990 individuals born between 1949 and 1955 was recruited from the register of all persons resident in Sweden (Statens personadressregister; SPAR). Of those, 5913 individuals agreed to take part in the study. The HEARTS sample is generally representative of the population (individuals in Sweden born between 1949 and 1955), but consists of slightly more women than men and a higher proportion of individuals born in 1949–50 than in 1954–55. Compared to the population, the sample also contains a larger proportion of individuals with higher education.
The HEARTS study is survey-based and includes questions on socio-demographic background, work and retirement status, reasons for retirement, expectations toward and experiences in retirement, as well as different aspects of health, lifestyle, psychological well-being, cognitive functioning, personality, and social networks. The survey also contains questions on working life, such as occupational characteristics, employment conditions, workload, job demands, work motivation, and reasons for continuing working. The survey data is further supplemented by information available from national registries such as Statistics Sweden’s longitudinal integrated database for health insurance and labour market studies (LISA), the Swedish Defence Conscription and Assessment Agency, and the Swedish National Board for Health and Welfare.
The project has a longitudinal study design with annual follow-ups conducted each spring to facilitate evaluation of changes over time in relation to the retirement event. For more information concerning the project and our findings so far, please see the below publication list.