Bloomberg News

Elderly Should Work as Loneliness Kills, Cameron Adviser Says

February 11, 2012

Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Old people should continue to work past retirement age because loneliness is more deadly than smoking, a senior adviser to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said.

David Halpern, director of the British government’s Behavioral Insights Team, told a conference in Stockholm yesterday that the benefits of work among older people extend beyond their finances.

“Work matters, particularly for older people, not just for money, but for social contact,” Halpern said in a round-table discussion attended by Cameron. “If you’ve got someone who loves you, someone you can talk to if you’ve got a problem, that is a more powerful predictor of whether you’ll be alive in 10 years’ time, more than almost any other factor, certainly more than smoking.”

Halpern, whose unit seeks “intelligent ways to encourage, support and enable people to make better choices for themselves,” according to its annual report, was speaking at the Northern Future Forum, a gathering of northern European countries, which was discussing how to keep older people in the workforce.

Cameron said yesterday he is interested in a Norwegian law that automatically raises the pension age in line with predictions of life expectancy and allows flexibility over when workers should retire.

“I was very interested in the Norwegian retirement system, where you’ve created a process rather than a cliff edge,” the premier said. “I love the idea about the life-expectancy adjustment.”

Halpern also said older people should be encouraged to leave homes that have become too big for them in order to help ease the U.K. housing shortage.

“We do have enough houses, it’s just essentially they are lived in by older people,” he said.

--Editors: Eddie Buckle, Andrew Atkinson

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Penny in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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