The reasons why older doctors don't retire

Many older doctors have no plans to retire any time soon, citing cognitive stimulation and a sense of purpose as reasons to keep working.

A survey of more than 1000 Australian doctors aged 55-plus shows a third have no clear retirement plan.

Doctors cite the central role of work in their lives as yet more reason to stay on.

The researchers suggest that being a doctor is so tied up with self-identity that retirement can seem "threatening".


Factors determing timing of retirement by doctors intending to retire (n=650)
Financial security 57%
Physical illness/disability 56%
Cognitive impairment 55%
Work-related burnout  39%
Act as carer  27%
Desire for more personal/leisure time 64%
Ability to access superannuation  37%
Spouse/partner retiring 21%

Reasons for continuing to work cited by doctors NOT intending to retire (n=398)
Relationship with patients 58%
Cognitive stimulation 88%
Finances  58%
Fulfilling professional relationships 64%
Good physical health  78%
Family/partner wishes 34%
Sense of purpose/goals 81%

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 are more likely than men to follow a spouse into retirement, while men are more likely to continue working because of the wishes of a partner or family.

GPs, psychiatrists and IMGs are least likely to declare an intention to retire.

IMGs tend to enter Australian medicine later, while the plans of GPs and psychiatrists are likely tempered by financial considerations and the physical demands of their jobs, the authors write in the Medical Journal of Australia.

More information:

MJA 2017; 206:209-214.