European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 311–320 | Cite as

Social engagement across the retirement transition among “young-old” adults in the French GAZEL cohort

  • Erika L. Sabbath
  • James Lubben
  • Marcel Goldberg
  • Marie Zins
  • Lisa F. Berkman
Original Investigation


The objective of this study was to test predictors of change in social engagement across the retirement transition in a cohort of 10,692 French utility workers retiring between 1992 and 2004, aged 51–65 in 2004. Three measures of social engagement (organizational activity participation, number of close family members, and number of close friends) were collected in 1991 and 2004; 1991 scores were subtracted from 2004 scores to determine change. We used ordered logistic regression to model predictors of change. Compared with those retiring just before the follow-up measure, those retiring 2–5 years earlier had greater positive change in organizational activity participation (OR 1.22, 95 % CI 1.07, 1.39) and greater positive change in number of close friends (OR 1.19, 95 % CI 1.04, 1.37) after retirement compared with before, but no difference in family contact, and no clear linear trend by retirement timing relative to the follow-up measure. Women were less likely than men to increase organizational activities and contact with close family ties. Poor self-rated health at follow-up consistently predicted decreased engagement. For specific activities, those retired longest had not only the greatest odds of increased political/religious organizational involvement and sports/hobby/leisure involvement but also the greatest odds of decreased volunteering. Those of low midlife socioeconomic status (SES) were more likely to decrease levels of formal engagement from before retirement to after, compared to those of higher SES. Overall, certain changes in social engagement emerged with increasing time in retirement. However, retirement timing was a weaker predictor of change in engagement than factors such as low midlife SES or poor health. Findings suggest that disparities in social engagement may emerge during retirement.


Social engagement Retirement Social support Social networks Older adults 



This work is part of a project funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR, French National Research Agency) and Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire de l’Environnement et du Travail (AFSSET, French Agency for Sanitary Security of Environment and Work). Funding for this analysis was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Network on an Aging Society.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 23 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erika L. Sabbath
    • 1
    • 2
  • James Lubben
    • 1
  • Marcel Goldberg
    • 3
    • 4
  • Marie Zins
    • 3
    • 4
  • Lisa F. Berkman
    • 2
  1. 1.Boston College, School of Social WorkChestnut HillUSA
  2. 2.Center for Population and Development StudiesHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Population-based Epidemiological Cohorts UnitINSERM UMS 011VillejuifFrance
  4. 4.Université Versailles Saint-QuentinVersaillesFrance

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