Reasons why physicians choose not to retire

There is a growing fear of a primary care physician shortage in the US, given that medical students are choosing specialty areas in higher numbers and many independent physicians are aging out of daily practice. However, there is evidence that many primary care physicians are choosing not to retire at an age that has been considered to be a traditional retirement age.

Hanover Research conducted a study to determine why physicians retire – and why they choose not to do so. They surveyed “more than 400 late-career physicians age 50 and older in various specialties, including psychiatry, emergency medicine, OB/GYN, surgery, and primary care.” They found that physicians tend to retire around age 68, whereas 65 is the age at which most American workers retire.

The survey found that that the three most common reasons that physicians choose not to retire are:

  • Enjoyment of the practice of medicine
  • Social aspects of work
  • A desire to maintain their existing lifestyle

Of those reasons, the lack of a social life after retirement appears to be the influencing factor. The “loss of the social dynamic of the work environment tops the list of greatest retirement concern for respondents, followed by loss of purpose, boredom, loneliness, or depression.” The social interaction physicians enjoy at work is rewarding for many of them, including communicating with other physicians and patients, and they will miss that, according to the survey, more than even their income.

The survey participants were of an average age of 60 and felt they still had quite a bit to contribute to their practices. In fact, “91 percent of respondents say they can still provide useful services to their patients and the community and 89 percent said they can still be competitive in the healthcare field.”

Elation Health supports independent physicians throughout their careers by providing the tools they need to strengthen their relationships with patients and to provide phenomenal care for everyone.