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Retirement Health issues force many into early retirement, new study finds

As lifespans get longer, so does the potential for large health care bills.

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Many Canadians find themselves having to retire earlier than planned because of health issues, according to a new study.

Sixty-nine per cent of retirees in a poll conducted for Sun Life Financial Canada said they did not stop working on the planned-for date.

And personal health is the main reason cited for not retiring on time, the survey – published Tuesday – found: 29 per cent of those who retired earlier than planned did so for health or medical reasons, ahead of 15 per cent who took an optional early retirement offer from their employer.

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Almost half of the study's respondents – 45 per cent – said they suffered at least one serious health event or accident.

Most of them – 61 per cent – said that had a financial impact. One quarter said it reduced or depleted their savings while another 26 per cent said it provoked "some financial hardship" and 16 per cent cited "significant financial hardship."

"Our research shows that Canadians who are not financially prepared to retire typically say they will work longer to compensate, but unfortunately, they may not have that choice," Sun Life Financial Canada president Kevin Dougherty said.

The poll indicates that 66 per cent of respondents cite deteriorating health as a top concern as they age, but only 22 per cent have saved money or otherwise prepared for health care expenses in retirement.

Respondents on average expect to live to 80, down from 81 in last year's survey.

The survey also found that out-of-pocket medical expenses are commonplace.

Respondents reported spending $1,511 on average over the past 12 months on medical/health care products and services.

When it comes to mental health and stress, the survey reports that 23 per cent of Canadians said they have experienced a mental health issue.

The Sun Life Canadian Health Index is based on an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between June 19 and June 26, 2014. A total of 2,799 Canadian adults from the Ipsos Canadian online panel were interviewed online.

A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100 per cent response rate would have an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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